Chapter 3: Fear or pain?
The sun sets, the sky is jewelled momentarily with ruby and amber, before the ebony of night reclaims its chilly grip on the Earth. Furire continues walking, head down, fists clenched and jaw locked. The dense snow under his feet swallows his boots with each stride and his heavy breaths leave his quivering lips in pulsing clouds. He stares at the frozen drifts ahead of him, concentrating on the next step, daring to believe he will escape this hell. He lost the feeling in his face not long after midday, so he did not know the grimace that crossed it. Still he continues walking.
The long journey had allowed him to think, to remember and understand what had led him to this. Anyone else would have seen that coin and ignored it, dismissed it as an old relic of a past to be forgotten. Not him, he sees it for what it was. He heeds the words of folklore and fairytale, words designed to scare young children from straying too far now compel him to trudge through the depths of winter towards that which haunts his dreams.
He looks again at the coin, blackened and worn, but still clearly marked with a crest. The emblem is unusually asymmetrical, depicting a hawk and a crow in a frozen frenzy. The claws of the hawk gripping the crow's wing in a crushing blow. Below the image, ancient text can be seen, some letters unclear but the words can still be read: 'Di Ffrin, Di Sstrek'. The motto of the so-called 'barbarian' tribes of the Rellian province translates easily: 'Your Pain, Your Death' . The tribes were known for their merciless and brutal methods of execution, and for their alliance with dark spirits. It is that alliance that interests Furire. There is an old tale, more of a warning, which tells of a surviving tribe, all of whom are possessed by pure darkness. Most dismiss it as superstition, but the presence of this coin...this could be his chance to finally get his revenge. To take control.
Furire carries on walking, towards power.
A girl sat against a tree, singing to herself quietly. The melody was sweet but unsettling, like an old music box as it begins to slow. She stared into the forest, eyes searching, darting, waiting. A look of longing crossed her face as she heard someone call. Sighing, she forced herself to look away, but kept glancing back as if drawn by some unimaginable beauty. She got up from the ground and brushed away the dirt from her simple dress. With one last look behind her, she headed back towards the village.
As she returned she heard screams and shouts from the village hall. She began to run towards the crowd gathering around the front of the building and tried to see through the angry mob but wasn't quite tall enough. Instead she forced her way to the front, to see her mother, lying on the floor, beaten and bleeding.
"Mother!" The girl exclaimed, rushing to help, tears forming in her eyes. "What happened?"
"She's a witch!" A man shouted, spitting the words in disgust. The girl turned to face the man, suddenly serious.
"My mother is not a witch!" She shouted, but the crowd's jeers drowned her out.
The girl began crying, afraid and helpless. She looked back at her mother, who finally turned to face her. The girl stepped back as she saw her mother's face. Her eyes were hollow voids, some of the darkness seeping out and dispersing around her, giving the woman a strange glow of nothingness. Her face had lost all emotion, her skin wrinkled and pale. The girl collapsed to the floor as she lost control, realising her mother was gone for good.