As her silver wings flapped above the frozen, snowy pine trees and the enormous mountains in the valley below her, the Harris Hawk flew through the skies, her golden, piercing eyes gazing from the cloudy heavens to the ground below her, looking from treetop to treetop. The ice chilled her black and scarlett feathers in the frosty sky, making it dangerous to breath heavilly for her.
She was not looking for food or a hunt or a kill. Those were the last things on her mind. She was searching for someone, someone with great importance, someone with absolute praise for her.
She has been searching for him for quite some time now, surveying the land, keeping a quiet eye on the people around all the cities of the North where he was last scene. Her sight traveled far, but not far enough to ease her that he was there. She never knew he was underground, though, shackled behind the steel of ignorance.
Below the Harris hawk, the wildlife bristled with life, from a pack of wild wolves hunting a deer in a fierce freenzy of a chase to snowsparrows flying from branch to branch, singing as beautiful as a goddess of legend. Above her, the sky was crystal grey. The snow was eerily light that day, but the frozen air was not.
She has been flying for hours now, and there were no signs of civilization. Only the snowy blackness of a rugged road stretched out below her to guide her way. Her gut twisted with the thought that she may never see him again and, maybe, it would be rightfully so. But still, she had no choice. She followed the road of grounded black rock in hopes of finding him somewhere along the lonely road, she prayed that fate would cross their paths together again
Hunger and fatigue were settling intothe strength of herwings and they began to beat slower with every wave. She knew that she should stop and to call it enough for the day or she would fall from the sky from exhaustion. But her determination and loyalty - loyalty to the one that she was with almost every moment of her life - kept her going... And now that loyalty was being tested.
But finally, when she was losing all hope, she heard the steady rhythm of heavy drums beaten with clubs on every second. The noise was drifting towards her from a distant torchlight. As she neared the light, she saw the clamoring of tall beings - the Northerners, hearing their strong, heavy voices emanating from both men and women. The Harris hawk's wishes had finally been granted.
With a joy unlike any other, she let her presence be known as she bellowed a screech that erupted from the bottom of her lungs. She could see a banner bearing a horned bear's face on a field of red.
As she got near it, she pointed the top of her already tired wings to the sky, flapping them even faster to slow her approach, piercing the wood with her talons. Observing the dark scene with her keen eyes, she scrutinized an event that fulfilled her quest.
The light was terribly hazy, but her sight could see almost everything in and out of the area with her raptor eyes, thanks to the torches. The large building was squared without a ceiling- a fort, no less, for it had ballistas on the front black marble walls. The other walls were surrounded by the valley's edge on all three sides with the fourth as the entrance to the gap. There were three levels; the top level being the lookout post with armed, uniformed guards above all four of the walls. The second level harbored the stairs leading between the three levels and the promenade. Along the promenade were the fort's murder holes that allowed the defenders to fire long distances and still be protected by the walls of the fort. On the bailey grounds, a platform for execution was erected so all could see "justice" be dispensed. The tall and muscular citizens, whose skin was as pale as the mountain snow, ringed the platform. Only the red walkway leading up to the chopping block was left devoid of people. The fort stood alone in the mountain-valley. The villages were kept far from the stucture, making the road to the Depths being a trial for the Northerners with only the strong-willed ones reaching it.
The Northerners seemed to be in a constant arguement. The convulsion stood strong for a minute or two. Face looking at face, cursing and arguing, but no fights had started yet. The silver-plated, black guards were posted four to a side on the second level with one man on the turns. They stood with stern order, crude muskets strapped on their sides, not glancing around to see what the trouble was. Any movement without an order is strictly prohibited and punishable by whips to the back. Only their eyes moved, wondering what their next order is.
But all the commotion, even the drums, ceased when a clanging of steel emanated near the beginning of the walkway. The decript portcullis was screaming as it was being raised. The people became agitated, fearing the official, fearing the prisoner who would emerge from the bowels of the dungeons, for this was not a normal criminal, for the charges were more then almostany other criminal that set foot in the land.
The last eacho faded away into the silence of the courtyard.
A figure stepped from the shadows.
The officer, a short, stocky northerner garbed in silver plate armor with a sash of the deepest purple and a scroll strapped to his side marched through the opened portcullis. The audience stood there, watching as the soldiers saluted tohim, but he didn't care. He didn't care for their sake. He just walked by with a forward stare, his oak-brown eyes and red mustache gleaming with dominance, only regarding over his objectives.
The fearfull eyes of the crowd followed him with caution and intimidated looks; if they ever stare at any of their higher-ranked officials in anyway strange or even wrong, the punishment would be fatal. Ever since this prisoner arrived in their land, the officials were ordered to be more discreet and arrest anyone that showed any signs of suspicion, and, if having the chance, to kill them. The outcome of this became deserted streets, the youths being beaten, and the elders being slaughtered. Riots were never abound, for everyone associated in it would be sent to prison and tortured and interrogated for answers on the prisoner. If they knew, they would be sent free. If they said they didn't, they would be killed right there on that spot, and thus it struck multiple convictions for the prisoner.
Reaching the steps, the officer reached out his foot and climbed up the wodden planks, almost losing his scroll in the process. At the end of his climb, he walked straight to the edge of the post right next to the chopping block, stepping feets away from the blood-splattered hulk, not intending ongaging from the smell. He then finally stopped, pulled open the scroll, and held it wide open a foot from his face. He murmured as he read it, and at one point pressd his face on the tanish-brown paper to see the indefinitely blurred words. The snow was starting to irritate and fog his eyes, but he ignored it. Everything must be in order.
Finally understanding the blurry words, he began speaking. It was time for the prisoner to be shown.
"Bring out... the demon!" the officer shouted, showing a voice of authority and strength.
The drums began to beat yet again by the drummers in the dark, creating a deep, humming sound with each beat, simalar to a unique bell. For one second it beats twice and so goes the next second. The third had multiple, quick beats but stopped for two more seconds, then repeates after that.
The attention of the crowd was broken from the officer to the opened portcullis. A clanking, rattling sound of chains hitting chains arose, clattering in the darkness. It grew louder and louder as it came near, sending fear to the youths and elders across the audience. They knew what it was, they knew it would show signs of its looks, but they had no idea what this being would actually be.
Coming up the steps of the entrance, a figure robbed in black with the cloak's hood shadowing its face, trapped with irons shackled around its hands and ankles, ascended the stairs with somber anticipation at each step. They were slow, patient, as if it was waiting for something... Maybe something terrible, the Norherners thought. It exited out the opening with that pace.
There it is... The prisoner - The Demon!
During its green mile, the officer began reading the scroll out loud.
"By order of the ruler of the North, you have committed crimes of lawless designs. Such as all demons, the crimes you committed are not documented and you shall forever be forgotten in the knowledge of history. By decree, the crimes you committed have been told truthfully andgratefullyby a jury of the citizens of the North, and these crimes that have been told are what condemneds you. You are bound by these crimes: murder, assassination, theft, vandalism, assault, beginning the Flamming Massacre of the Southern Farms..."
He continued ranting off the list, from the sane to the most strangest of crimes, and soon it sounded like a priest marrying a young couple; joist and "compassionate." The Demon paid no heed to this. It has seen enough in a lifetime, knowledge to last more than the wisest, powers only the Highest can wield.
It wasapproaching closer to the steps. As it drew near, it looked past its shoulder to the side, seeing through its execution robe. It saw the disurbingly terrible conditions of the towering crowd; ragged, torn, mud-stained coats covering their filthy, pale bodies, the youths wearing freshly cut goat skins from their farms because of their unbearably poor lives, and far more. But this did not get the demon's attention - he was drawn to their eyes, the estranged eyes, feeling their feelings, just like all of the Demon's kind. It saw all the emotions in their pupils - mainly including fear, sadness, anger. Some more in them than others. Never has it sensed so much suffering and woe.
The blue eyes of the prisoner, seeing with its powerful sight, then glanced to its right. It saw the exact same thing, only that the northerners' emotions were affecting them differently and, at one point, a mother shunned her young child away with her hand, trying to keep him away from seeing that deep gaze.
At last, all that was leftforthe Demon is toreturn its sight straight to the wooden steps, remembering those eyes of hardship that it has rarely seen. It saw a many of stories in each eye; stories of pain, stories of suffering, stories of loss. The only story that it saw that was the same in all the eyes, though, was one simple word - hate. It saw that all around it, hate against the Demon, a harted of their painful lives. Strangely enough, the Demon didn't feel enraged. It didn't feel pity. It only felt grim sorrow for all of them.
An abrupt stop near the stairs almost caused it to trip. The stairs were troubling as it seems, for it was irregularly large, due to the fact that the Demon is near six feet and most of the Northerners were incredibly large. He would need to have his leg irons removed in order to climb them.
It must continue, unfortunately, or get shot in the back several times. Resuming its pace from the sudden halt, raising its feet to the point where the irons were cutting its calves, the Demon patiently treaded up the stairs, step by painful step, until it reached the top, continuing until it paused behind the chopping block right next to the officer. It was gruesome, blood stained by the heads placed on it rolling off. The Demon thought of all the times lives were lost due to the sword or axe crashing into it. What a terrible fate for anyone.
There it was, dozens of more eyes to see with their own stories, their own history, their own tale to tell, but still the same hatred. What sort of corruption, if any, could cause so much turmoil like this? At least it was too busy learning the Northerners to hear the officer's excessive barking, for he was almost done. It was thankful for that, at least.
"… Vandalism of the poor, seduction of children, sexual abuse of the elderly, enchantment of broken chairs, and association with outlaws," the Officer continued, now glaring intensely at the crowd with steel, firm eyes, his voice now returning to the powerfull, strong voice., "And now, by traditional orders, you shall look unto the eyes of death and despair. Then, by final decree of the North, the demon shall be sent to death by decapitation."
He rolled the scroll up, flipped it to his side and returned it to his right pocket. He then orderly took steps to his left to keep an eye on the demon, but not too close to the horrible chopping block. No matter who it is, who it's for, the sight of it always leaves a gut-twisting felling in their stomach. Some even say that their own neck felt something far from being caress.
The officer grabbed the Demon's hood that covered its blackened face, but he did not pull it back just yet. He inspected the complexion of the audience, and it was just as he wanted. They hated the Demon. Forgiveness was not - and will never be enough - for them for pleasure... To take its life. to take the life of all those filthy, ghost-faced monstrosities who cursed them in their time, would be sufficient enough. This gave him a grin such as a smile of a thief.
Oh, how the official was wrong… How all of them there were wrong to this one…
The hawk peered stronger at the figure with the official's face disappointed and dumbfounded at the gasping, cow-eyed crowd. Even the drums went out of synch and stopped for him.
The Demon was not a ghost-skinned destroyer, but, in fact, a young man, about twenty winters old... A strange Terranian, by the looks of it. His hair was cropped to his shoulders, colored truly of dark, royal azure - so dark that only sunlight showed the blue as stripes. His face was handsome, young as a hero, with the eyelashes and eyebrows being the only features of facial hair on him.
But, out of all these features, the eyes stood out as the most prominant feature of the Demon. The iris was sapphire blue, beautiful and strong, but the pupilwereslender, diamond shaped, like an otherwordlyserpent.
The audience stood with forlorn faces, disturbed, shocked back at who they were killing. They murmured amongst themselves on how this is a monster. "Is that him?" "How can he be one of them?" "What fool chose him for death?" and more. The most strikking being "Could he be the drake-eyed hero of..." They expected one of them, but now realised it was him.
Things didn't go out as planned as the officer thought it would, worry-eyed and such, especially for that last line. He wanted to use the hate of the people to stop the dictation of the North and to have them praise him as their king. Starting the chaos was easy, but now that he is murdering a figure they are starting to change their minds about, the person who they have not been fooled for as a demon... Well, he might as well be classified as one of the tyrants.
The Northerners have always been race sensitive to others around them, even though they are known to be fierce to others. They can sense what's right and wrong easily, so hiding one in clothing and makeup blocks the senses. The officer was too cocky to do so. The eyes should have been enough to fool them, he said to himself.
The murmurs drastically became louder and louder to yelling, like a roaring fire on oakwood, anger and tension rising, the flames ascending higher and higher. The officer had to put a stop to the inferno. He called for an order of silence, but the crowd was too deep in discussion to listen. He called again. Still no answer.
There is only one thing he can do now. With his stern face returned, he gestured his hand in the air. The soldiers of the higher two levels, with clicking and loading, cocked their muskets and aimed them at the crowd. Gasps and terror spreaded among the citizens, while the drums still banged. One more word would send them to the Depths. But soon, the whole crowd became silent, their eyes returned to the Demon, whose expressions turned from sad grey to pale grim. Even fear can quench the fiercest flame.
The officer's deceitful grin was interrupted by the screaming of a hawk above him, catching everybody's attention. Even the Demon rose his head (Except for the soldiers' attention, as a matter of fact). Eyes followed the black hawk as her silver wings pierced the sky, gliding to the north as if avoiding danger. The Northerners were mesmerized by her beauty, the flaps of her wings, the amazement of a flying fighter.
She went past the mountains in a few seconds, and their interest came back to the Demon. No one was sure if this was a servant of him or not, but they didn't bother to asks due to a death penalty.
Her job is done, the Demon thought to himself. It is now time...
As his drake-like eyes closed, he bowed his head, kneeled, and leaned on the chopping block, his neck in perfect position to be sliced clean off. The stench of dry blood and gore overwhelmed him with the sense dread. He has faced worse, though. His spirit stood strong, and evenhis grim disposition made him calm. But he wasn't worried about himself.
Much to the officer's surprise, he thought the Demon would put up a fight, but what difference does it matter now? If his allies attack, let them come. They'll have the whole country against them! The officer's head looked forward, lowering his hand. The guards returned their muskets above their shoulders.
"Let the execution begin!"
The officer, in fear of being stoned secretly by the crowd if he goes alone, returned to his outpost in the wall of the fort next to the platform, guarded by his top soldiers. A Northerner, about eight feet tall, came from that outpost to the platform carrying a fragile, but sharp, ceremonial katana that was used for magical rituals of sacrifice, banishing the demons to the Depths.. An onyx mask covered his facial features except for those chestnut eyes, on one part seem to have been full of anguish. His heavy footsteps stopped near the chopping block, positioning himself to the right angle to slice the Demon's neck through. Wiping his nose on the mask, he lined himself with the Demon, the blade over his neck. The crowd could only watch, for there was nothing they could do.
But for a few minutes, the executioner could not bring it to himself to decapitate this person. It was a hard job for anyone, really. He kept raising the blade, but didn't thrust, laying the sword on the wood of the block. This was kept up multiple times during the execution. Finally, seeing the officer's furies gestures, he gave a deep sigh, lifting the blade like the rising sun one last try. It was time.
He stopped the blade in mid air. The drum beats went faster. A mother hid her son's face in her coat. The crowd's heartbeats raced. The officer stood there grinning. The Demon's face stood marble calm.
The blade thrusts down.
When the Demon opened his eyes, he saw a dawning inferno