Red and Silver

Red Riding Hood. Her name was spoken in whispers across the land, encased within terror, bringing with it memories of chaos and carnage and crimson blood.
But Silver always spoke her name with hatred, because desire for revenge had always been stronger than fear.

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1. Red and Silver

Silver had always hated corpses. Hated their stench, hated their stillness, but most of all he hated that empty void in their eyes as they stared up into the heavens.

He picked his way through the ocean of death, kneeling beside each of Red's victims, sliding every eyelid shut. Better leave them to darkness than have them gazing eternally into the afterlife, praying their souls were pure enough to dance beyond the flames of hell. He liked to think there was an afterlife. Liked to think that Wolf was in some beautiful haven and waiting for him, liked to think that he could deliver Red to a realm of eternal damnation. A shudder of pleasure ran down his spine at the thought of her suffering, twisting his lips into a grin.

Beyond the corpses: an ocean of flowers, their vibrant petals uncaring of the carnage. The low whisper of the wind was the only thing that moved here besides him, gentle as it nudged at the flowers and encouraged them to dance, kissing both their petals and Silver's skin with soothing lips. It might have been reassuring, could he not remember Wolf's lips against his own, warmer and softer and murmuring adoration into his ears.

The memory lifted tears from the well of sorrow in his heart, and Silver paused to survey the village's remains.

Everything was crimson. The mutilated corpses of babes, the tender throats of women, the calloused hands of men. Red painted in blood, and nothing escaped her canvas.

Silver had finished his monotonous task of closing their eyes by noon, and sat encased in silence among the flowers, feeling the wind's cool embrace around him. He wished he had the time to start the flames for a funeral pyre: without it, their bodies would decay along with the memories of this village, but closing their eyes was something, at least. How many deaths had the great wind seen? Perhaps that was why it didn't care. Or perhaps it did - perhaps it was lulling the corpses into their eternal sleep, its whispering their final melody, sweet and tender and beautiful.

Night was chasing the sun into its retreat when Silver stood, the fading embers of day painting the sky with pink and gold.

He slipped away from the flowers and the wind and the corpses, into the forest and after Red's trail, and he didn't look back.

He never did.

 

****

 

Red's trail led him to Stagfall, a small town known for its lively taverns. It was nestled in the forest, though no shield of trees could stand against Red.

Ahead, the only weapons against the inky darkness of night were braziers illuminating the town gates, beside which stood two guards, spears clutched in their trembling fists.

"Is Red here?" he called out, each word sharp as it plunged deep into their already festering fear and stealing speech from them. They nodded, parting before him, and he entered the town. Several streets led from here, but he took the one that now reeked of blood and fear. It was an odour that Red could never cleanse herself of, and it was an odour that he would track until he saw her death.

Along the streets, haggard faces of the poverty-stricken and roofless gazed up at him, some cast in the occasional glimmer of light that escaped from tavern windows. But all light tonight was pale and subdued: none dared attract the attention of Red.

It was the largest tavern in which he sought her out, and glanced inside. The light from within flickered, as though terror had swept from the townspeople and into the candles, passed into the hearts of flames and making them tremble.

Silver pushed open the door, and scanned the room.

Empty, but for a crimson shadow seated in the corner. Rage swallowed him, and as anger chained his logic, shackling him into a frozen state of fury, time became a meaningless rush: moments stumbled drunkedly into seconds and then tumbled carelessly into memories.

Wolf's murky eyes, so deep and dark and grey that they could hold any secret, so beautiful that they had trapped Silver within and never let him go.

Wolf's delicate fingers, laced within Silver's and holding him close, tracing lines onto Silver's back, running through Silver's hair.

Wolf's quiet words, poetic and glorious as they revealed the glory of the world to Silver, carrying  every whispered I love you through the dark of the night.

And then time sobered once again as Red turned around, cruelty etched so deeply into her features that it must be rotting her heart and soul. Her ruby lips twisted into a grin and she gestured to an empty chair.

"You're here for me?"

Silver strode towards her, his fists curling and his jaw locking. He had to find out, first. Find out why she did all this, hear the apology on her lips as she died by his blade.

He sat.

Tried to leash the rage and keep it from swelling into his voice.

"You killed a village of people."

"Yes." She smiled, like a child whose dress has just been complimented, and Silver wanted to feel his hands around her throat. "See, they did something to me." Her laugh, light and delicate like glass, danced into his ears, her voice like poison to him, every word dripping venom into his self-restraint. "When I was a little girl. My sister, Gold, was starving. So she stole some food from the village's most powerful warrior - they called him the Bear - and he caught her. He almost killed her."

"So you slaughtered a village?"

"Hmm. That's just how things work, isn't it? Revenge? It's a funny thing. One person does one thing and another takes revenge, and slowly it drags everybody in and then there's blood on everybody's hands." She smiled again. "But you're not here to avenge them, are you?"

"I'm here to stop you doing it again."

Red giggled. "No, you're here for revenge. I can tell. It's in your eyes - I love people's eyes - and you know, yours are familiar." She thought for a moment before a gasp escaped her lips. "You're that boy who was with Wolf!"

Silver fought against every urge to squeeze the air from her lungs as she took a sip from the tankard perched daintily between her fingers.

"You killed him."

"Oh, so that's why you're here. Yes, he was the first person I ever killed. It became easier after that."

A growl rose in Silver's throat. "Why?" A hiss, broken and sharp, its edges slicing into Red's light-hearted expression until annoyance danced across her features.

"He hurt somebody dear to me," Red shrugged. "He hurt the woodcutter."

Another memory lanced across Silver's mind: stumbling with Wolf through the thicket of cold shadows within the forest, trembling and freezing, stealing into an old cottage in which a fire promised to save them from a glacial death. And then the woodcutter's return, the woodcutter's rage, the woodcutter's axe, only inches from Silver's chest before Wolf twisted it from the old man's grip and turned it upon him. And then the crimson blood from the wound.

"He did it to save my life. And you killed him." The rage had swallowed Silver's words by now, and his hand was on his dagger.

Red snorted. "Lives are worthless."

"Not his."

"His was." The twisted smile lit her lips again. "But it's like I've said, isn't it? Revenge is just a vicious cycle. Wolf hurt the woodcutter, I hunted him down, I killed him, so now you'll try to kill me. And if you do that, my sister will hunt you down, and she will kill you. And then more people will be dragged in, because there must be somebody dear to you who will want Gold dead, and then we all will be drowning in blood."

"It's worse than drowning in sorrow," he spat. "I will save people from the blood you bring upon them, and then your precious sister Gold can kill me as slowly as she likes."

Red giggled again. "Oh? She would hunt down all those you love, too. You've already let one friend die-"

Silver lunged, his blade slashing out through the childish cruelty of her words and slashing into her throat. And then her words were little more than choked screams, tiny streams of blood trickling from her lips and down her chin.

Finally he found his voice, letting it flow to the corpse slumped before him across this shadowed corner of the tavern. "I have loved only one person, and you've already killed him." A pause. "Blood red." A shaky breath. "It suits you, when it's your own."

Silver had always hated corpses. Hated their stench, hated their stillness, but most of all he hated that empty void in their eyes as they stared up into the heavens. But as he gazed at the corpse of Red, he realised that there was only surprise in her eyes. And now the thirst for her blood was gone, there was only sorrow.

And sorrow could only fill his heart with emptiness.

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