Where has your gluttony gone?
It swallowed up stars.
The whole sky was yours to devour,
But now you are gone.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The black castle was silent.
It was an intimidating sight, a bulky construction built from massive blocks of stone darker than the midnight sky. It squatted on the side of a mountain, giving an impression reminiscent of some great beast watching the green land far below. The snow cascading and piling up against its sides only served to emphasize its darkness, a stark contrast between purity and death.
Blood stained the walls inside. Bodies lay motionless on the floor, nearly stacked on top of each other from their number. More of them slumped behind slits in the walls, shattered bows and shredded slings prominent among the carnage.
A sound could be heard. It was harsh breathing, the sound of someone with nothing left to give. It was a sound befitting the bleak castle.
The man from whom the sound came stared at the floor. Dressed in heavy golden and white armor and leaning on the halberd he bore as a weapon, his pale skin was bruised and cut, his once-proud mane of blond hair matted with his own blood. He might have been considered handsome at one point, and although young, he looked as haggard as an elder who had lost hope in the world.
Dragging a breath into his tired lungs, he slowly raised his hazel eyes to the monster standing in front of him. “I’m… going to kill you.”
It would have been difficult at a glance to tell he was a monster. His skin was a dark mottled green-blue shade, and he had no hair. Dressed in a sharp white dress shirt and a pair of ironed slacks, his only other item of clothing was a cherry-red bowtie. He held no weapons, and his hands were tucked into his pockets.
The monster did not smile, but his words sounded like a joke. “You’ve been trying for some time.”
The man coughed, and blood came out. “On the honor of my family… I will end you.”
Wiping a spot of blood off his shirt, the monster inspected his thumb. “Again, you’ve been trying for some time. Your ancestors couldn’t lay a scratch on me, whoever they were, and I’m sure they were much better than you.”
Closing his eyes, the man took a deep breath, and then another. With a heave of effort, he stood straight, and readied his halberd, ignoring the waver along its length. “Fight me.”
The monster chuckled. It was a lonely sound, one devoid of any actual humor. “I couldn’t fight you if I tried.”
Taking a sudden lunge forward, the man stabbed forward with his halberd. The monster stepped away, avoiding the blade by a hairsbreadth. Sliding closer, he raised one finger to the man’s chest, stiffened it, and then poked him.
The impact put a horrendous dent in his armor and sent him stumbling backward, and only a grip like a dead man let him keep a hold on his weapon. He stayed upright, watching the monster with dull eyes.
His knees gave out, and he collapsed to the ground. He fell no further, bringing his halberd down and leaning his weight on it. His breath was even more ragged than it had been before, but there was a dampness speaking of blood in it now.
The monster took a deliberate step forward, crouching to inspect the man a little closer. “I must admit, your tenacity is… somewhat admirable. Who are you again?”
Gritting his teeth, the man summoned the strength to raise his head. “I am Gariel Farland, Fourth Knight to the King of Asterl. I welcome my death with honor.”
The monster raised an eyebrow. “Why would I kill you?”
Gariel stared at him, eyes filled with hatred. “You slew my friends.”
Looking around at the bodies strewn around them, the monster made a noncommittal sound. “They’re not dead. Well,” He amended, “They shouldn’t be dead. I held back enough that they ought to be… violently incapacitated, shall we say.”
It sounded like a joke, but he still didn’t smile. Gariel’s face went through several expressions; confusion, disbelief, and then settled on distrust. “Why… should I believe you?”
“Why shouldn’t you?” The monster seemed genuinely interested to hear his response. “What would I gain from lying?”
Gariel’s forehead creased as he thought about it, trying to come to the right conclusion. “Because… you’re… a liar.”
The monster folded his hands, crimson eyes narrowed. “What brought you to that conclusion?”
Gariel fell silent once again as he tried to sort his thoughts through the pain he was in. The adrenaline was fading, and his body was beginning to figure out how much damage it’d sustained. “You… kill… so many people.”
Nodding, the monster agreed, “Indeed. I’ve slain enough that I could probably fill a town with the bodies, although they deserved it in my opinion. I’ve been around for several thousand years by now - all things considered, I think I have considerable restraint. Regardless, a slayer I might be, but a liar? You broke into my house and tried to kill me, and I granted mercy to you and your… allies.”
Gariel stared at the floor for a long time. Finally, he asked, “Why didn’t you… why didn’t you kill us?”
The monster stood, looking down at him with an odd expression. “As I said, there is no point in fighting someone who can’t fight back. Besides, the people who sent you most likely didn’t send you with the intent of defeating me. If their historians have a brain between them, they already know there’s nothing in their arsenal that could lay a scratch on me. No, you seem like a fairly decent person, and decent people have no place in politics.”
Incredibly, Gariel managed to stand up, blood leaking from numerous cuts on his forehead. “They… would not betray me. I trust the king with my life.”
Reaching over, the monster put a hand on Gariel’s shoulder and effortlessly forced him to the ground, leaning him against a wall and lying his halberd across his lap. “He knows that. It’s why it’s so easy to take advantage of you.”
Standing, he carefully straightened his bowtie. “Don’t worry. This will not be my first regicide. You’ll all be better off without someone like…” He frowned imperceptibly. “What did you say his name was?”
Gariel helplessly lifted a hand, stretching it out towards the monster. “Don’t kill him. Even… even if what you say is true.”
The monster shook his head in amazement. “The blind loyalty of knights astounds me sometimes. But… well, I don’t see why I should or shouldn’t. I have better things to do than kill a king.” Leaning down, he started picking up bodies, stacking them on one arm. “You will not be allowed to stay here, but the town below is fully stocked with supplies.”
Gariel grimaced. His eyes were beginning to close, but he still needed to ask one thing. “You… are not as evil as I’d thought. Why… why not help people?”
The monster paused, and Gariel continued. “I… don’t understand you. Why you kill so easily. How you kill so easily. But… we could use your strength.”
Turning, the monster gave him a deadly serious look. “That’s the problem with your species. You only ever look at something and try to figure out how you can use it. I have one objective and one alone. It has nothing to do with the survival of your species.”
He left with six bodies on one arm, barely even appearing to notice the weight. Gariel’s head lolled back and his eyes closed, but he shouted, “You could help us, Garen!”
Garen didn’t stop walking. “I could,” he told the wrecked hallway, “But I choose not to.”