Stagnation. A pretty disgusting word, one would say. A disgusting state of being, a disgusting state of mind. But one always has to wait before something happens. Ambition gets you nowhere if you throw yourself at your problems. Such were the thoughts of the False Prince, his mind still reeling from his actions, what he saw when he pushed his friend down into the boiling blood. What he heard when she resurfaced would scar his psyche, constantly prodding at him and tantalizing him.
‘Why not?’ the whispers would say when he was alone, spoken from shadows that seemed to dart away when he looked. ‘It’s already broken-- it’s worth the price. It’s what you need to protect them. Who would want it but them anyway?’
And every-time, Karyssmov denied it. He gritted his teeth and moved on, just as he had ever since the path had started. A long and winding journey that didn’t seem to have an end, and the Prince knew better than to think it would indeed ever end. Things escaped him, yes, but he knew better. At least this time he did.
But every time he heard the voice speak from the shadows, it became sweeter. Every time it offered him more and more, things he could have never dreamed of. The power to rot away his enemies, the strength to take what he so desperately wanted. All was offered. ‘All can be given.’ the whisper would say, sweet and slow as molasses. ‘And so little to be taken.’
The sweet voices kept speaking. He stopped ignoring them. Sometimes he gleaned things from them, whispers and secrets spoken in tones that only he could hear. Eventually the voices would cut off in the sharp coughing caws of crows. Distant at first, but closer every time. Every time the Faroe walked down the roads of Haense, he seemed to feel the eyes that followed him. Crows flocked around him, following him like some sort of omen.
The beady red eyes dug into him, judging him for what he’s done. Shadows did not whisper to him anymore, instead the crows did. They flocked to him, resting upon his shoulders and leaning against him, sputtered out hisses and haughty caws spoken out in a language that only the Prince would know. Insults, vile poisonous words that filled his waking thoughts. He lashed out at those around him, screaming at them for not hearing the same things the crows were saying. Each time the avians simply looked at him, dead silent. They had nothing more to say.
It was quiet. Such a thing bore down on Karyssmov’s mind. He stepped forward to the only person he knew could help, and spoke to her. The Red Woman confided in him, told him what he could do to move forward...and latently, he knew it had to be done. He raised a huff, storming off at the preposterous requirements...but the thought gnawed in his mind. It was lodged there now, like a nail in his skull. Something he could do to help. Something he could do to protect…
Days passed without sleep. The silence deafened him as it once did. Each time he talked to the crows that still hovered at his window. He beseeched the shadows that moved around his bed out of the corner of his eyes. He just wanted to talk. That’s all he wanted.
With a sudden snap, it became a cacophony of noise. Orders barked from a thousand directions at once, ones that conflicted and burned into his ears with a thousand thousand murderous urges. Karyssmov falls to his knees during the din, clutching at his ears to defend himself from the ravenous words that he--and only he-- had heard. Just as it had started, it ended-- with a snap. Only a single word was spoken, in the same sweet tone that the shadows had once said.
At once he reaches out, grasping at the crows that were silent outside his window. It did not struggle as he brought it to bear, clenched hands nearly crushing the thing in his grasp. He sets his candles to burn, formed into the circle he had rehearsed a thousand times but was always too afraid to complete. A basin was set beneath him. Without even glancing at the crow, he slams his hands inwards as a loud squawking crack rung throughout the house. Blood dripped down from his gauntlets and into the basin, the battered corpse of the beast dropping down from trembling hands.
Then it was black. A peaceful oblivion of nothing. He grabs at his own eyes in terse confusion, and when he drags his hands back away, six red eyes stared back at him.
‘You’ll show them, Prince. You’ll show them all. But you know the price. You’ve known it this whole time.’
With bloodstained hands, Karyssmov reaches into himself. He grabs the shattered bits of himself and wrenches it out, a wispy chunk of something in his hands. It floats forward and into the expanse-less maw of the great Kholidav, the wine-skin upon him wrenching forth and feeding into the horrid abomination, the enemy of all things. It fed and it ate, for that was it’s purpose. It feasted upon the ambition latent within the mortal, ever-sating itself upon his fears and regrets...but mainly the Maleus and his soul.
‘The bargain has been struck.’
The words rip through his mind, tearing him down and building him back up, but not as whole as he begun. Tears pooled upon the ground that he laid unconscious upon before he jolts awake, eyes opening to see he had been ‘returned’ to the realm he belonged. Soundlessly he sets his palms to the wood, pushing himself up. In the corner, nearly leering, was a peculiar white crow. It leered at him, almost seeming to feast on his confusion and fear, supping upon it as if it genuinely brought it closer to a goal.
It stared at him, and almost seemed to smile.