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Forsaken



 
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Gyldi

The churchyard was always quiet.

Birds could be heard chirping, but even then, it seemed muted. Leaves scuttled across the gravestones, no matter what time of year it was. Even on the sunniest of days, it was quiet and unassuming. It was a place of rest, to any and all who cared to notice. Not many often did.

The church itself sat in the center. It was an ancient stone building, the only work done to it being routine repairs and upkeep. It was a staple in the small English town, though the congregation grew smaller and smaller as the years ticked by. Religion and worship were a dying necessity, and the church was becoming a place to lay their loved ones to rest and nothing more. More often than not, they never returned to even pay their respects.

A breeze pulsed lazily through the belltower, rustling the leaves and cobwebs in what some would consider an eerie manner. A creaking echoed lowly from the bell’s hinges, but the wind wasn’t enough to truly push it one way or another. It’d been years since it had rung at all; these days, the only noise from the tower came when the beast saw fit.

A large black dog looked down at the proceeding funeral. They were few and far between now, but once, the yard had been bustling with burials much like a market with patrons. It was a different time, a different age, and the life expectancy seemed to have risen by a great deal. The dog was growing unnecessary, at least anymore.

Still, she was tied to the church. It was hers to protect in any way it needed. And if that meant she’d have to keep it from being torn down one day, well...that was her lot in this life.

Stupid, weak Gyldi... It’s a pity the gods saddled our family with such a burden…

Earth-toned eyes blinked in quick succession as a huff escaped her muzzle. No time to dwell on the past; the soul was passing.

A wispy cloud rose from the grave as the coffin was lowered into the ground. As it began it’s ascent into the sky, her sight swept over the ground, searching for anything out of the ordinary. Often, shadows would rise from the soil and attempt to corrupt the soul, and sometimes they’d appear only to drag it downward. It was ingrained in her existence, being a planeswalker between worlds, that she know which ones deserved to be fought for, and this one would not be taken.

It was a cruel existence, considering that very religion destroyed her entire village, and she was damned to be their protector. Fighting against her role, however, had proved futile long ago, as her gods had abandoned her for her sins.

The Hellscape didn’t seem to want to bother with this soul, and as it reached its destination far above the clouds, the Grim willed the bell to ring out its arrival. The tower resonated deeply with the sound, and the assembled mourners turned their gaze upward. It wasn’t often they heard the bell tone, and it caused a deep-seated discomfort that was more akin to guilt to stir within them. They had abandoned their beliefs, yet they still relied on them in times of such need.

The Priest looked toward the belltower as well, only to lock eyes with the guardian of his churchyard. He was the only member of the clergyman that could see the creature, and as their gazes met, he gave a small nod of his head. When he’d inherited the church from the previous Head Priest, he was told of the beast and its duty to the yard. The first time he’d come into contact with it had been nothing short of startling, but he’d grown accustomed to - and almost comforted by - its presence.

“Mommy, look!” The voice of the child carried across the yard and the beasts keen hearing picked up on it easily. Two sets of eyes snapped to the culprit, the finger pointed directly at the Grim. “It’s a black doggy! What’s it doing in the belltower, mama?” The Priests expression melted into a frown as the parents shushed the boy with compliments on what an imaginative child he was.

Within a week, he was dead.
January 08, 2018 02:54 pm

Gyldi

Eiji was in his trance for some time, and the quiet of the Falls was comforting. It’d been quite some time since their ‘attack’ of sorts, and her mind wandered back to her origins, recalling the memories that stung the worst...

If she looked back, it was hard for Gyldi to pinpoint exactly when she discovered her skin-changing abilities. It was told that hardened, battle-worn men would change into the forms of wolves in the midst of their rage, making these berserkers even more feared and revered. It was said to be a gift bestowed upon warriors by Odin himself, to make them that much more formidable.

She couldn’t imagine why he’d waste such an ability on the likes of her.

All in all, she preferred the form of the large, black dog. She didn’t feel weak or helpless, and no one looked at her with pity. Hence, when the power was discovered, she spent much of her time as a beast. Gyldi had even excitedly ran to her mother, spewing off her strange tale in quick succession. The woman had never seen her child so animated that she couldn’t understand her, so she sat Gyldi down and calmed her enough to get the truth of it.

It was met with shock, to say the least.

“You mustn’t tell your father. No one can know of this, Gyldi…”

“But Mother…”

”No one.”

Her heart hardened that day. Gyldi couldn’t understand why she had to keep this secret; for once, she wanted her father to look at her, to see her. In her eyes, her mother was being cruel. Odin had seen her as a warrior, else he wouldn’t have blessed her with such a gift. Her existence was worthwhile, after all.

Begrudgingly, she heeded her mother’s word, though she spent less and less time in their home, learning her healing herbs and poultices. Instead, she wandered off to the river, shedding her clothes and her human skin and reveling in the form that made her feel strong.

It was during one of these outings that it happened.

Her brother, elder by a year, spared Gyldi no cruelty. From pushing her down to making sure she never forgot the burden she was, Arvid was their father’s favorite, his son. At seventeen, he was already married with his own homestead and a child in his wife’s stomach. He was a skilled warrior, if unseasoned and a bit headstrong. And Gyldi hated him.

It was spring, and he and his friends were itching for the raid that his father had finally promised he could go on. Battle-thirsty, they decided to go hunting in the woods, but when they came to the river, their sights fell on a large black dog that had stopped for a drink. One of the smaller of the group fancied himself an archer, and immediately nocked an arrow, aiming with a quick eye.

“Careful, Gunne, not too quick or you’ll scare it away.” Arvid’s words were well-intentioned, but they fell on prideful, deaf ears. The arrow was loosed, sailing through the air until it landed in the trunk of a tree some three feet from the target.

The dog jumped visibly, its eyes easily finding the attackers. “Fool,” Arvid laughed, pulling his sword from its sheath at his hip and charging over the water, his friends at his heels. He swung the blade through the air, sure that it would hit its mark, but the beast dodged out of the way in the nick of time. A snarl escaped the man, and he swung again, amazed as the dog danced out of the way once more.

His companions, having circled the pair to keep the beast from running away, laughed heartily as Arvid missed his target over and over again. “The damn dog is better trained than you, you lout!” It was at this point that they all decided to join in, jabbing at the black beast with careful precision, yet even they missed their mark.

Until, finally, one landed a hit on its left haunch.

A feral growl left the dog, and with amazing speed, it sank its teeth into the assailant’s arm, effectively forcing him to drop his weapon. It came away with a large chunk of flesh, and he dropped to his knees, clutching at his wound and screaming.

When it spun on the rest of them, they hesitated. Only Arvid was abe to regain his composure. “Come on, you cowards! It’s just a damn dog!” Charging toward it once more, he gave one last-ditch effort to end the beast where it stood…

And missed.

It was only in the midst of his screaming that he realized the dog had sank its teeth into his neck and face with a vice grip. Out of the one good eye he now had left, he saw his companions retreating, leaving him to the mercy of the beast. With the loss of blood and his airway heavily damaged, he saw his vision slipping away along with his consciousness, even as he was dropped unceremoniously to the ground. The dog stood over him, its strangely human eyes somehow...familiar…

Gyldi took in the bloodied sight of her brother at her feet and considered the options. Arvid deserved what he got; she gave him every opportunity to walk away. But even in the midst of their dance, she knew he never would. Not only was he prideful, he had no reason to walk away from that fight. It wasn’t as if he knew it was his sister in disguise. Even if he did, she thought, would it have changed anything?

Easily, she could leave him out here, for the gods to spare or not. And just as she was settling on the idea and turning toward home, one thought permeated her conscience. Mother. She was the only one who knew her secret, and Arvid’s companions would tell of a large, black dog. It wouldn’t take long for Mother to put it together, and this time, Gyldi was unsure what would happen, should she have left her brother to die.

Cursing his name, her teeth sank into his bloodied shirt and she began dragging him back the few miles toward their village. She only hoped the gods would spare her any interference from prying eyes; she didn’t possess the strength to carry him in her human form, and what a strange sight, to see the dog that marred him dragging him to safety.

Once on the outskirts of the treeline, the village in sight, she halted breathlessly. Again, she glanced down to Arvid, his skin having paled considerably, and the bloody wreckage that was his face and neck. She couldn’t imagine a scenario in which he survived, and that was enough to offer some sort of reprieve at the situation. Gods forgive me, she thought, but there was no love lost.

She began the somewhat painful transformation back into her human form, that pain only sharpened by the large gash that stretched and ripped on her left calf. Once finished, she assessed the wound on her leg, noting the protruding muscle and sinew. No matter, it would heal, leaving nothing but a large scar in its wake.

Looking around, she suddenly groaned, which promptly turned into a coughing fit. She’d left her clothes by the water’s edge and would have to announce her brother’s state in the nude. Even in death, he made things as strenuous as possible.

“Please,” she began calling, running from the brush with an expression of mock horror, “help! Arvid’s hurt! He’s been attacked! There’s so much blood!”

It didn’t take long for people to come running to his aid, having been tipped off by Arvid’s cowardly companions. Only passing glances were given to Gyldi, and she could already hear the talk of how he’d courageously fought the beast off and miraculously dragged himself home. She could practically hear her teeth cracking from the sheer force of her locking her jaw.

They talked of revenge into the long hours of the night, her father demanding retribution and the beast’s head as a trophy. It was only after everything had died down that Mother finally approached her. Gyldi was applying a green salve to Arvid’s neck, who, annoyingly, had not stopped breathing yet.

“Holger said he stabbed the beast in the left leg.”

Subconsciously, Gyldi adjusted the skirt of her simple dress, feeling the bandage underneath brush painfully against the stitching. She grimaced, and it didn’t go unnoticed. Mother’s hand slammed down on the table, effectively procuring a jump from the young girl. “Your father wants this black dog dead.” She didn’t answer, only met her mother’s green eyes with a hard stare.

“He attacked me,” she finally stated, her voice flat.

“He attacked a black dog, Gyldi!”

“I gave him every opportunity to walk away, but he had to show off to his friends, just like always--”

“He’s dying!” Mother was practically hysterical, and Gyldi felt a pang of guilt. Not for Arvid, never for Arvid, but for the one person that fought for and cared about the young girl’s existence. It wasn’t lost on her that her father had insisted they let her die when she was born, but her mother was insistent that she was special, that the gods willed her to live. So if she lived, it was merely...the gods’ will.

Mother’s body sagged visibly, and it was clear that she was struggling. “You are… You are not to transform ever again.” Gyldi opened her mouth to protest, but she was silenced with a stoney glare. There was no doubt, should anyone spy the black dog again, she would be hunted, and her father wouldn’t stop until he had his trophy.

“He’s your ward now. If he dies, it is on your hands.” Mother rose from the chair and turned to her empty bed, where she was sure to get no sleep. The young ones were already deep in slumber, having been exhausted by the day’s events, but she checked on them anyway before casting her final words on the matter over her shoulder.

“Should he die, may Odin see fit to smite you as well.”
April 03, 2018 11:04 am
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