Act I: Red
Chapter 7: Others
The dim flickering of the flame inside the lantern barely allowed the cloaked man to properly see just what he was supposed to be seeing. But in truth, it did not need to. The corpse was as cold as the snow it was lying amongst. The man just sighed before kneeling down, placing his light next to the woman's head. His other hand gently gripped her jaw before the other began opening the eyelids for a few seconds each.
"Looks like the baker's kid," a man behind the kneeling one said.
After spending a few minutes inspecting the corpse, the man leaned back on his heels and sighed again.
"I don't know if the chief can hold the people back now. Even I'm at a point where this has to stop," he said. "The mayor is just going to use her as another martyr."
"…You're sure she was killed the same way, doctor?" the second man asked.
"Looks to be, but there really is only one way to find out," the doctor answered in defeat.
He then began to remove the girl's trousers.
"I know he's your friend, chief, but those people out there are scared. You can't be telling me that you put him over the safety of the people."
The chief was staring outside the window, watching as a large crowd gathered around a man standing on a box, shouting obscenities and rallying the village into a call to arms.
"Eight girls this week alone!" he was heard yelling. "No one is safe from this monster! Why hasn't our chief of police done anything about it?! I'll tell you, it's because he pities it! We can't let pity cloud our judgment! Soon even your toddlers will be the next victims, because our mayor can't control the very man he has sworn would protect us!"
Once again the people roared in anger and patriotism.
"Guess I'd better disperse them before they burn the village down…" the chief grumbled, although he didn't make a move. He simply stood watching with his hands behind his back.
His deputy folded her arms and leaned back against a desk. "Or you could deal with the real problem here," she pushed. "The man had horns on his head. We all knew he was going to be trouble the moment he walked into town."
The chief didn't respond. He merely continued to stare at the growing crowd, thinking silently about the situation. The deputy shifted slightly, realizing he wasn't going to comment. She glanced over to a few of the pictures on the wall; several were of him and another man, both having their arms over one another's shoulders. She then walked over to him and gently placed a hand on his back.
"He doesn't care about you if he continues to do this," she said in a low, calming voice. "I know this is difficult for you. So why don't you stay here and let me take care of it?"
The police chief turned his head subtly in her direction and let out a held breath.
The crowd grew wilder even as the mayor pushed his way through them. Several others were following him, or at least trying to, mostly to protect him from those that would seek to do him harm. Usually this would not lend itself to reality, but with the current state of the populace, it was necessary.
Just as they made their way to the center of the town, so too did the deputy and her own men.
"Mr. Mayor," she greeted.
"I've had enough of this. I appointed him the chief of police to handle situations like these, why hasn't he done anything?!" the mayor exclaimed as he stopped abruptly in front of her.
The deputy held her hand out.
"I'm taking care of it now. We will bring him to justice," she reassured in the most professional tone she could muster.
"I don't want him brought to justice, I want him dead!" he yelled. "These people will have my head on a plate if he isn't!"
Both of them quieted down however as a new group of people joined them – the doctor and the squad he was assigned to. The mayor and deputy both turned to the downtrodden faces, and it became exceedingly clear what news they had in store for them.
"Well," the doctor started as the mayor gestured for him to explain. "It was definitely him. The deceased was the baker's daughter."
"Inform him immediately," the mayor quickly ordered, and two of the men that came with him promptly trotted off. "Anything else?"
"She was defiled before death, as is his modus operandi."
The mayor then aggressively turned to the deputy. "Is this enough? Nine women in one week? I cannot allow the chief to continue protecting this monster!"
The deputy sighed. "I understand." She then signaled for the others to follow her. "We'll end this tonight."
The forests outside of the village were large, but the squadrons of soldiers held vast experience with them. They were hunters, born in an era where survival meant everything. The creature they were hunting now, a horned abomination responsible for the deaths of many, knew all too well of the danger he was in when he heard the echoes of shouts. Through the brush he could see many dots of light over the countryside, each of them dispersing to finally find and end him. And as the snowfall thickened into a vast blizzard, he knew his friend the chief would not be able to protect him this time.
The horned man, hooded, understood his crimes. He knew that what he had done, what he had been doing, was wrong. And he hated himself for it. Yet while his moral compass was very much functioning, he always gave in to the darker temptations that tore his mind apart. The horns were not a birthmark; they were the sign of his evil-doing. A curse. But he was unable to stop himself. He didn't want to stop himself. He knew of only one cure – finding a creature so perfect that she would decimate any that would cross his path.
It was during this bout of day dreaming that the horned man did not hear the presence of another behind him. And because of this, he was not as subtle as he should have been when a hand descended onto his shoulder with force.
He immediately and noisily lunged out of the bush to get away from his pursuer, not even bothering to see their face; and because of this, he began to hurl clods of dirt their way to do something – anything – to distract them from following.
"It's me!" the familiar voice said, raising his arms to block the onslaught of earth. The horned man quickly subsided his assault. "Akulien, it's me."
The hooded creature now disclosed as Akulien didn't say a word. He stood several yards away from the chief of police, his one and only friend, allowing him to speak. How he found him was a mystery the horned creature had grown used to in his time spent with him.
"Listen… they are searching for you. They want to find you and kill you," the chief said. "I… I should do what they would do, and deliver your head to the village. I cannot even begin to comprehend what you are thinking of or why you did what you did… nor do I want to… but…"
He pulled out a small picture frame and stared at it for several seconds.
"…You look so much like him…" he whispered. "I'm sorry, my friend…"
Akulien backed up slightly as the chief began to move closer. The blizzard picked up in intensity.
"I'm so sorry… that I have to do this!"
In the instant the chief said this, Akulien darted off into a random direction. The chief had already unsheathed his dagger and lunged for him, but narrowly missed. The tears that poured down his face became icy the moment they hit the air, and due to this obfuscation, he was unable to see and thus tripped, falling to the ground. Akulien heard the thud, stopping him from running away. He turned.
On the ground was a broken man, sobbing without any relent. The horned man couldn't feel his limbs. He couldn't move; but he knew he couldn't stop. He was unable to stop. He didn't want to stop.The blizzard then smothered them both, causing everything to go black.
Warmth. It was a sensation he had not experienced in a long time. There was also a very soft cooling feeling that overcame him, and his mind put together that it was because he was slightly wet. His eyes began to open. The world above him came into focus; trees. He realized why he was wet – there was a thick mist that enveloped the floor of wherever he was. And when his consciousness came through, he immediately jumped to a sit.
He was no longer being swarmed by the endless barrage of snow and ice. It was calm. The forest was quiet. Slowly he reached for his head, finding that his hood was still covering the monstrosities that clung to his soul like a stain.
What could he remember? Snow, yes, but something else. A dream of some kind. It was a pleasant dream, but he could not remember the details. And then the question finally formed – where was he? Why was he thinking about a dream when he had absolutely no idea of his location?
And then the epiphany hit him. Was he dead? He pushed himself up to stand. Glancing around, he could only see the forest. It wasn't a forest he recognized, so he was definitely no longer in the lands he had come to call home. And if he was in fact dead, then this was an afterlife he did not predict. What purpose would a forest serve in terms of atonement? Was this in fact a version of hell? He didn't know. What he did know, however, was that he began walking, even if aimlessly. What else could he have done?
Seconds passed. Then minutes. Then hours. Or so it seemed. He kept glancing upward at the sky, the blue, cloudless sky, seeing that the sun – there was in fact a sun – was moving. Slowly, of course, just as the sun he was used to did. No answers came to him on his walk, however. It was just more of the same.
But then something happened. Something amazing. Something he could have never predicted in the entirety of his pathetic, irredeemable life. He had walked for an unknown period of time, finding no life, save for the trees; and then miraculously, with no explanation, he witnessed the unexplainable. He was not alone. And even more concerning was the fact that the being before him, a distance away, was that of a female. She had her back facing him, completely unaware of his presence. And because of this, he decided to remain where he was and watch the lithe figure.
She didn't seem to be going anywhere. He studied the contours of her body; her skin, the clothing she wore, her red hair. But of course, the most prominent feature that stuck out was the pair of delicate-looking butterfly wings that flickered on her back. It was a scene so surreal that he was sure at this point he was either dead or dreaming. But he didn't care. Because as he slowly encroached on her, the more he began to see the creature he was beholding.
The forest was an oddity to Thaia, mostly because it was so uninteresting. There was no flora to point out, all of the trees had the same appearance, and the ground was unnaturally flat. She wondered if this was a ruse by the rest of the fae, if perhaps the forest was in fact an artificial creation. It would explain the air, possibly.
And then she noticed it. The air. Being a sylph, she was more attuned to the gentle ebb and flow of the slight breezes that passed through the trees… meaning she was able to feel what most would not.
In that instant she rapidly spun around and faced the creature that was only seconds away from her. A forceful gust of wind blasted down from the canopies and whirled around her as she made the motion, pushing Akulien into the tree behind him. And in that exact same motion, the hood was no longer able to keep to his head; Thaia watched in confusion as the male human was exposed.
He had gleaming white hair, but that wasn't what she noticed first. Atop his head was a pair of what she thought of as goat horns. At first she assumed the man was a faun, but finding that he had human legs dissuaded the notion. While she was used to such oddities, she did not understand why this one had such features.
"What are you?" she asked abruptly.
Akulien looked upon her face, and immediately wished he hadn't. She was, of course, very beautiful. The emotions and sensations that came with his temptations flooded through his entire being, forcing his uncontrolled lust to take hold of his thoughts. He wouldn't even answer the fairy; he didn't want to. But something stopped him. It was a small thing, a curious aspect of the situation that forced him to stay back. Throughout his entire time with other humans, women would only look upon him with pity or fear. It was this that gave him his rush, not their appearance. And yet… with this creature, this winged miracle, she showed neither. The only sensation he could see on her face was curiosity.
"I'm… I'm human," he forced. Thaia raised a finger.
"I have a feeling you're lying. I'm a fae. I know lying," she said with a slight smirk. "But perhaps you'd rather just share your name. I've run into nothing but people who refuse to say anything useful… can I ask if you ae just awakened?"
This confused the man. Awakened? Was he not in fact dead? Or was this not a dream? Bemusement began to grip his mind, but not as strongly as the lust that would not remove itself. It was different, however. It was not a lust that was bred from fear; rather, the lack thereof. It was an excitement that defined itself through a childish need to possess. It was an insatiable hunger, slipping through his rationale to convene with whatever reasoning just so happened to make sense to him. He condemned it, but at the same time, craved it. Encounter after encounter, he would feed that hunger and it would lead to his undoing… so why was this time any different? Why did he feel an unease about the entire situation, while at the same time feeling as if it made him immortal? This was a creature so devoid of fear, so filled with curiosity over his entire being that it was eating his mind whole. She was so tantalizingly close, so easy to overpower. He must have this creature, this woman for his own; even for a moment. What made him feel this way? Was it the way her skin shone unnaturally in the faded light? The way her eyes seemed to reflect like some enormous jungle cat? No, he thought with a smile; she had no fear of him. It was simply that fact. The opposite of what he preyed on. Whether this was from lack of understanding or gross over confidence he didn't care. None of it mattered; it only mattered that he must have her in some way. His curiosity had turned to obsession in the blink of an eye.
Thaia did not say a word. She watched him as he leered over her, and a sensation she once thought had disappeared was slowly returning to her. That look… that obsessive look of possession and… adoration. Her curiosity faded. The being before her had quickly turned into the very essence of how she defined herself. The very concept of her perceived existence. And in a consequent moment of utter fearlessness, she stepped forward. This man would have her; it was a thought that invigorated her so to the core that her entire body began to shake subtly. What she was deprived for so long had now fully returned into a single life form. And it was staring at her. Wanting her. Craving. And she craved it too.
"…It's Akulien…" the man whispered, suddenly realizing she was only a breath away from him.
"Thaia," she cooed back.
Somehow the word registered in his clouded mind and a jolt of ecstasy shot through his spine, releasing both pleasure and pain at the same time. It was enough to bring him back to a conscious state of mind.
"…Why are you allowing this…?"
"Because I am curious," she whispered again.
"If you will taste of me and know nothing else but want of it again."
It was some distance away that two more watched over the two. One was in stark white, just barely above contact with the ground. The other, all black, a face unknown. He stood beside the white woman, as if he was attached to her.
"Mm, it seems Tylarus has quickly claimed them both," Avelia said with a smile.
"And this is the sylph?" the man with slicked back, black hair asked.
"Yes. Have her meet me at the overlook… I think it's been long enough, don't you?" she asked before chuckling and turning away from the scene. The male, dignified, followed her with his eyes.
"I'll have the fae deliver her, my Queen."
Avelia merely waved her hand in the air in response.
Glossary - Day 4
- The Stranger / Race: Human / Status: Active
- Sakiya / Race: Human / Status: Dormant
- Thaia / Race: Fae (Sylph) / Status: Active
- Zhei / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
- Akulien / Race: Unknown / Status: Active
THE FAE COURT
- Avelia / Race: Fae (Fairy) / Status: Active
- ? / Race: ? / Status: Active
- Dimitri / Race: Fae (Faun) / Status: Active
- Tylarus: Name of land.
- The Tavern: Establishment in between the Fae Forest and Rogue Woods, south of the Graveyard.
- The Corrupted Tree: Black, deadened tree located in the Graveyard.
- The Graveyard: Plot of land between two rivers and in the center of the land.
- The Fae Forest: Eastern forests, surface world of the Fae Court.
- The Raven: ?