You probably won’t believe this story, but someone needs to tell it. Someone needs to know about those people, about what happened to them; I need to tell someone who is responsible for killing them…
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I was a boy then, about twelve years and old my parents were huntsmen for the Viceroy; they would go into the forest and capture, and most times kill, the magical creatures that dwelled there. Sometimes they would be in the forest for weeks or months at a time, hunting a great stag, a cave troll, or a magical bear of old.
When they would return, the Viceroy would hold a great feast. There we would eat, drink, and laugh with our friends and adversaries; enjoying the freshly killed food. This was the only time that everyone in our village would truly come together. My parents weren’t just known for their talent in fighting and hunting, they were also entertainers, and my father knew how to capture the crowd. They did their job well, especially during the great feast; they would put on a show telling the story of their magnificent adventure, never revealing too much as to keep the crowd under their spell. Then they would bring in the creature, either stuffed or alive to show off; if alive they would fight it to the death, this made the crowds roar with laughter and excitement.
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It happened one night, at one of the greatest feasts we had ever held in Griatia, we were laughing and rejoicing at my parent’s latest victory! My parents had accomplished something that no one else in the history of Griatia had ever done before. They had caught a phoenix! They kept it alive, knowing that everyone would want to see this creature of legend, including the Viceroy. Everyone did want to see the majestic creature we had only ever heard about in legend. They wouldn’t miss this show for anything, but they would soon regret that.
The crowd was loud and enthusiastic that night. Smiles were contagious and drunkards were amusing. I asked my parents if I could have a peek of the great bird before the big show, but they refused, obviously very annoyed that I asked.
Everyone ate and drank until their buttons and ties were ready to burst. The Viceroy went around doing his usual, bragging about his wealth and how his banquets had the best shows; he also spoke of how tonight would be the best show of all, for he had a live phoenix.
The Great Hall was glorious, the round marble fire pit was a magnificently blazing, and on it roasted a great boar. At the end of the hall, facing the marble fire pit was the great tapestry, behind the Viceroys enormous chair, which displayed him high on the back of his glorious steed, in the background was a battle being won by his army.
Then my parents entered the room, and everyone grew silent, they all fought to get a closer view. My parents, walked confidently into the middle of all the square dining tables, they addressed the crowd with smiles and waves of their arms. Behind them, a great cloaked cage was being wheeled in. My parents addressed the crowd, telling their guests of their search for the phoenix, and how they toiled and fought to bring it here tonight! Then the moment we all waited so long and patiently for. My parents walked over to the cage, gave a grand bow, and slowly uncovered the cage. The crowd’s eyes grew large and their mouths formed a big gaping hole.
My thoughts predicted the terrible gruesome creature that was going to be under there, the one we’d all proclaim as better off dead. I thought about how its mouth would form a crooked grin, its eyes would burn like the fires of hell, and its claws would bear the blood of its past prey.
When the cover was lifted, my eyes however were overcome with the image of an angelic creature, nothing like what we had heard about in the legends, nothing gruesomely ugly or terrifying. I saw a creature that was lean, graceful, and so lovely beyond anything my eyes had ever witnessed before, so beautiful that tears formed my eyes.
Her small head pointed toward heaven and her eyes flashed like embers. She fluffed her wings with a flicker of fire as she proudly tucked them into her sides. Her tail swirled in an elegant smooth motion like fiery sparks on the wind. Even though she was captured, she stood with such beauty, grace, and pride! Her spirit would never be held captive; it would burn like the sun.
Now my heart ached and I felt sick, how could we cage such an elegant creature? How could we talk of killing her and stuffing her as a trophy? That’s when the phoenix’s eyes met my gaze, and she seemed to read my thoughts, through her eyes she seemed to say, “Awaken to the cries of the broken, seek the path few have chosen. Become what you believe.”
With that I crawled under the tables and ran to the fire pit, I grabbed the largest piece of burning wood, and I ran with it to the “great war” tapestry, and with all the power I had, I threw the burning piece of wood at it.
At this point the crowd was in an uproar, woman and children were screaming, men were shouting, the guards were chasing me. I ran as fast as I could to the Phoenix’s cage, and opened it; my mother grabbed my arm and screamed at me,
“What are you doing?”
She was too late, the phoenix had escaped; she had spread her wings and let forth a huge tsunami of fire that engulfed the ceiling of the great hall. Never looking back to see what happened to me she flew through the ceiling’s burning embers and gaping holes.
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When everything was done and over, all that was left of the great hall was black pillars and ash. I remember sitting on Krye’s Hill looking down at it, my face and hands black, my clothes smelled of smoke and grey pieces of ash stuck to them. My face was frozen in a dumb expression, my mind still couldn’t wrap around the events that had just occurred. I couldn’t believe that they were all really gone.
So now you know, I did it, it was me…I killed them all…I burned the great hall and all the people in it…all to save the bird. As I was escaping the falling timbers, I saw my mother yelling to me from across the hall,
“Don’t forget the words of the phoenix!”
And then she died, I didn’t see it happen…all I remember is how I followed the smoke trail leading out of the great hall, I heard all the terrible cries behind me as they burned in the great hall. I watched it burn to the ground on top of Krye’s hill, I saw that the only thing that was left was black crooked pillars, like grave stones marking the place of the dead.
* * * * * *
After watching the fire turn into smoldering smoke, I woke from my stupid daze, and ran into the forest, hoping that no one would find me. I knew what evil I had done, and I knew too that I would never truly sleep again.
Now I wake from my nightmares, remembering their cries, they haunt my mind, like my shadow haunts me. I remember the fires and they burn holes in my soul. I chose my path, not knowing fully what kind of debt I would pay; I am now the tortured soul of the burning fires of hell. I have become the nightmare that I thought I believed in.
I am the phoenix…