He knew, better than anyone, how powerful one’s subconscious could be.
By day he roamed the world for answers to his questions, he spread his wings, he flew with lighthearted hope that today would be the day. Today he would finally unravel the many mysteries and their many locks that lay upon him in layer upon layer. For where one question was answered, it felt another fifteen locks came into view, each leading further on, further into something that sent his mind in a whirl, sent dreadlocks bristling with anguish and perplexion. He wasn’t the smartest creature, he knew that. But these secrets, these keys to his past, to his very being... he had to find them. He had to know what he was.
His wings were not wings at all but blades of death, crafted to destroy upon command. Hair that writhed with passion, emotion... that too had been his weapon, powerful appendages crafted to crush the life out of an opponent; loose enough to be molded and shaped, strong enough to be driven through human flesh. He had been fashioned, formed, fine tuned to be a servant, a weapon. A simple tool of war and nothing more. What had happened to him, why had he become the way he was? Even as bile rose in his throat, dark hands had reached out to him. Come, they called. We must do more experiments. We must do more tests. We must understand what has made you the way you are, we must know why you have become more than we ever anticipated.
We must know why you live. You are an object, not meant to have a soul.
Come to us. Come with us. Your place is in our arms, serving us.
Horror had constricted his heart, tightened in his throat until he could barely breathe. He had screamed until he was hoarse, until azure bloomed in his eyes and words had gushed from him that he couldn’t recall. So deep was the horror, the panic, the simple disgust of this revelation.
Wild eyed, desperate, he had struggled, fought his way out of their hands. He had struck out against the forms that pushed against him until the corridors were awash with blood. They knew his weaknesses. They knew where to strike him, but still he plunged onward, panic and desperation driving him as it once had so long ago. Copper wings dented and filled with holes as he made his escape, leaving a swath of gore and twisting, dying dreadlocks in his wake. He had no recollection of how he flew that day, no recollection of how he still breathed, how he still lived once he broke free of that terrible sanctum. Wretched, broken, he had fled to the strand that he called his home, collapsing beneath the familiar trees, choking and gasping as life ebbed from his body, as his soul tugged gently at him as though longing to be free.
Was this your purpose? This sickening, horrible thing, all along?
The sand ran red with his injuries as he locked himself within his mind. He was ill, and violently, curled broken in the shade, his body bleeding out slowly as he drifted into unconsciousness. None would find him here.
Could he move, he would have retched himself dry at the horror of his existence. Were he not bleeding, he would have turned copper wings upon himself in hatred for what he had been created for. No, no, no, no. What existence was an existence at all, if your very life meant taking the lives of others? Who was he to claim guilty and innocent? Fifty years he had roamed in search of what he was, and this latest revelation was by far the worst. He bled, he wept though his body remained still.
Even after all he experienced, all he had learned, his heart was still young, still the innocent heart of a child. A child that longed to believe in the good in every and all. And now... now these men were telling him he did not even have the right to one. Not a true demon, not a true being. A hollow shell with a wayward soul, born to be commanded and controlled.
Beneath the palm trees he lay, burning with illness and fever, so close to death but unable to cross over the threshold. His soul wandered, filling him with images of all those whose paths he had crossed, all falling beneath the copper blades of his wings. Where he walked, he sowed death and destruction as shadows marching behind him slowly invaded the broken lands he left behind. You could be powerful. You could be destruction itself. Everything you have known, everything you have loved, hated. Submitting to his fate would mean they would all go away. He would lose his mind. He would lose his soul. Bare feet continued to carry him forward, with wings outspread, silently screaming as he marched, as faces became bloody swaths, as limbs flew when his wings so much as touched the masses pressing around him. Those who ran to him as friends, those who lunged at him in challenge. Gore soaked into his appendages, turning them from metallic rose to glistening, rusty red. His skin became splattered with the ichor of those he cut down. From head to foot, black with the blood of the slain. Hardening slowly in a carapace that would only grow thick, thick, thick as the deaths mounted higher still.
Everything burned. The world around him became a blackened, twisted ruin as fire sprung up and screams greeted his ears. Faces of those he recognized, the mage, her hunters, the demons that pursued him. All dissolved into bloody piles of bone and organs as he swept past them, crushing their skulls underfoot. And then those he had cared for. Askalan. Mihai. Ossa. No, don’t touch me. Don’t come near me. Their smiles were swept away with sickening smacks, more fodder for the hungry march that walked behind him, laughter and howls accompanying them as he screamed, unheard, in pain and sorrow. His heart was breaking, he wept bitter tears... but his face was frozen in a twisted mask. Nothing would ever show upon his visage again.
How long had he walked? How many had he killed? Faces rose up to all sides of him, forming an endless corridor. Kill them all, Arxhielho. This is what your wings were born for.
On and on it went until he felt as though he were losing his mind. No more, he wanted to scream. Let me kill no more! But his feet moved on their own, the soles black with ash, moving him onward and onward, turning everything to the same black ruin at his back. Faces and people thinned out, he destroyed them all, walking on and on and on until there was nothing left. His wings had corroded, so heavy with taint, with blood. Without rest, without care they had become tools, just another instrument to break. He felt himself dying and panic fluttered in his breast. There was nobody left to kill. Nobody left to die. His time was coming to an end and he knew that soon the shadows that massed behind him would overtake him too, their figurehead, the creature that had led them this far. Devour him just as they had devoured everything he had destroyed.
It was no longer a march of death, but a flight for his life. Behind him bounded the roaring, laughing creatures that had followed him thus far and before him lay ruin after ruin, a world destroyed over. His face remained stoic as he howled inwardly with grief, his pace never changing as shadows swarmed up to n** at his heels. His pulse raced and he knew that he was about to be destroyed, yet his body would not obey him. He was under their spell, under their command. The time had come. The world was theirs. The march would snap him up in a heartbeat and his existence would be over.
Yet something seemed to be rising up before him as he walked on, one lone figure amidst the red and black, so enchantingly familiar. Powerful form was all but silhouetted against the darkness, insidious green hair wavering in the iron tainted air, twisting as though waiting, waiting expectantly. A last, brief gasp of life in a world that had fallen into disarray. The one life that had not yet fallen to his tainted wings.
Could not fall to his tainted wings.
Despite the march at his back he felt himself faltering, corroded wings peeling back, losing the ragged tips in the shadows where they were promptly devoured. Blue eyes lifted to meet with pinpoint pupils, everything so vivid and familiar despite the fact that the other had to be amongst the dead. He could not stop moving, the march prevented that, but he forced his body against its commands. He could not touch this one, he didn’t dare. A name was upon his lips though his mouth did not move. Rofvannon... Rofvannon.
The other couldn’t possibly have recognized him as he was now... but the braided rings of his eyes seemed to widen, his expression just as unreadable as the asura’s own. It was almost as though those eyes broke the spell upon him, looked beyond to the desperate, pleading soul beneath. He didn’t know how he knew, but he knew. Rofvannon saw him for what he was, beneath all the blood, all the gore, all the taint and sorrow.
I cannot hide from you. I cannot lift a wing to harm you. Crush the life from me and take my soul, I would rather die than continue knowing this is my purpose...!
Shadows urged him onward towards the other, who rose up on locks of his own hair, slinking forward as the asura broke out into a run. The gap between himself and the shadows grew, the distance between him and the springs demon closing. As he came within range, something struck him, tendrils wrapping tight around him, crumbling the sorry remnants of his wings into copper dust. He felt himself lifted forcefully, surrounded by familiarity and tortuous pain, bracing himself as those locks tightened around his form, ready to die at the hands of this one, the one he loved and continued to love... even so far across the sea, even with regret so heavy in his heart. Everything seemed to spin and blur, there was movement, wind, and suddenly he felt himself strike something that gave way beneath him, water closing in over his head with barely a ripple.
Heat suffused every last molecule of his dying form – he had to be dying to feel so suddenly at ease. He floated, fell, sinking slowly to the bottom of... a spring? Somewhere above the bright, shifting waters, the surface of the pool grew black, shadows roaring onward as they swept over this hiding place, baying in fury. And he, he sank deeper within the thermal pool, drifting through a spectrum of colored waters. Red peeled from him in little ribbons, drifting to the surface in rapidly dissolving threads, the horror, the taint being scoured away by water that burned his lungs and boiled the flesh from his bones.
Strong arms gathered him up and tendrils enfolded him as he opened his eyes, finding his body whole once again, scalded clean by spring waters, bringing him back to life. Copper wings shifted awkwardly in the heat and warmth, feet kicking to right himself as newly formed braids reached out to touch the face of the one he loved so dearly. But Rofvannon was dead... the Caldera of the Equinox a cooler shadow of what it had been previously... he’d been there. He’d seen it for himself. His gaze locked with that of the one he loved... how ironic that to escape death he had stretched his hand out and called on the aid of the dead.
What have I done? He wanted to whisper, gazing upon the ethereal form that held him, thick green locks spread in a halo about him, twisting with life. He felt his heart burn with pain, a shudder passing through him as he leaned close, holding the other warmly and feeling the embrace returned.
This was life. Warmed in the arms of the one he had once called his protector, his defender, his lover. He would never know this passion if he succumbed, if he believed that the bloody battlefield beyond this hideaway was truly what called to him. His lips parted to speak, his regret, his pain, his sorrow at the way they had left one another, but springwater filled his lungs, made him choke, sent a fine stream of bubbles up to the surface so far, far above their heads.
Breath drew sharp into his lungs suddenly, blue eyes snapping open wide. A sob escaped him as the world blazed to life around him, lying beneath the palm trees on soft, white sand, his body crusted with the salty spray of the sea, with old, old blood. He sat up slowly, feeling a dull ache with every movement, flecks and scales of red crackling upon his skin and falling to the sand as he rose slowly, leaning on battered and broken wings. Dreadlocks were stumpy and uneven, even as he tilted his head to look up at them, feeling those that could reach stretch down, tugging at his scalp to rub at his cheek. A much shorter, ragged spray of hair reached up to touch them reassuringly.
The dream faded almost instantly from his mind as he limped towards the beach’s edge, plunging into the sea without a second thought, letting the salt water lap at the hidden wounds and the fires of pain surge throughout his body. His wings were pocked with dents and holes, his body barely able to hold itself upright. He bathed with eyes closed, trying to recapture that which he had seen whilst lost in the dark of his subconscious, but it seemed as though he could only recall fragments of the terrible visions. The shadowy march, the sensation of life, the blissful warmth had been driven from his mind.
I am destruction, I am despair. But man’s hand cannot command me. I will not stand for it!
Instinct’s voice was harsh against his ears, fury bubbling up within his chest. There had been something important, some vital clue to his being... but right now all he could think about were those that had brought him this low. Anger and resistance burned in him. His true purpose eluded him, but he had seen enough.
Resolve burned hot in his veins as he hauled his broken body towards the undergrowth. A coppersmith could take care of his wings, medicines could heal his physical hurts. But behind that another desire was gripping his heart.
He needed to destroy those who had made him the way he was. He swore to make it so that what he remembered of that terrible vision would never come to pass.
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