WARNING: Explicit Content
Lightning cracks open the night sky and illuminates the dark mountains that tower over the village below. Black shapes stalk among the trees that dot the mountainside. Men on horseback donning frightening black armor and wielding wicked weapons. They survey the valley and focus on the small village with the light of their fires casting an orange glow on the buildings and the surrounding wood, the sound of their celebration riding the wind to reach the mounted knights that are slowly and silently descending on them.
The villagers crowd the square dancing to the music, drinking wine, and feasting on the bounty of a successful harvest, the chill night air kept at bay by the roaring bonfires and the heat of each others bodies. A little girl slips through the crowd following her nose to the feasting table looking for sweets and clutching her cloth doll to her chest. She nearly trips over her long yellow braids that trail all the way down to her feet but her mother catches her before she can fall and smiles at the sight of her child's large, blue eyes.
The woman carries her daughter over to the food and lets her pick out a pastry filled with roasted apples and honey and sprinkled with sugar before setting her back on her feet. The girl munches on her treat and lets her mother tie up her hair so that her braids don't trail behind her in the dirt. The mother pats her daughter on the bottom and encourages her to go play and explore. The girl starts to run off but stops and quickly runs up to her mom and gives her a hug before racing away into the crowd in search of other children to play with.
The streets are full of laughter and singing and music. A glorious festival was at hand and to all involved in the celebration of the harvest it was a perfect night. Applause erupts from the crowd as the men carry the spoils of their hunt to the fire to roast on great irons spits over the flames. They heft in a large healthy stag and several hares and game fowl. Sausages, jerky, and other meats already hung on the porches, remnants of the hogs slaughtered and their meat put up to dry to sustain the villagers throughout the winter.
The dark skies are suddenly set on fire as flaming arrows pierce the blanket of night and descend upon the villagers. The screams of women, children and horses reverberate across the valley as the knights from the mountain storm the village walls. The people scatter before the mounted soldiers like mice trying to escape a flood, running into their homes and barring the doors as if that would somehow keep the demons at bay.
The little girl runs through the streets in search of her mother, clutching her doll close to her chest. Horses race by and a glancing blow knocks her to the ground and she loses her doll beneath the trampling of hooves. She feels a throbbing, aching pain in her arm and she cradles it to her chest trying to ignore the fact that it was broken. More knights surge forward on their massive dark warhorses wielding even darker weapons.
The girl stands in the middle of the chaos and cries out for help. Two men hear her cries and rush to her rescue wielding nothing more than pitchforks and act to ward off the last of the knights to enter the village. A deep rumbling laugh creeps from behind the mans demonic helm before he pierces the throat of one with a heavy lance while his horse makes short work of trampling the other. A spray of blood splatters across the girl's cherubim face, her tears making dark muddy streaks down her cheeks made dark by the blood and the ash wafting off the burning buildings.
She tries to run away and her left arm hangs limp at her side as she frantically seeks refuge from the chaos. Glowing embers streak across her face and burn her tear filled eyes bringing fire in their wake. Horrible, red burning flames spill across the ground in front of her and she screams. Demons seem to dance in the flickering flame as dark shadows rise from the ground to play with the horrible burning fire.
Someone calls her name but she can barely make it out. Deep down she knows it's her mother calling her name but it sounds so far away. The thundering hooves, the screams of men and women, the laughter of the mounted soldiers as they set fire to her world all drown out her mother's voice. She backs away from the flames as they start to grow higher and higher while she desperately searches for any sign of her mother. A throttled scream comes from behind and she turns to see two men drag her mother out into the streets, her once beautiful blonde braids now caked with blood and dirt and muddy ash. They laughter is horrific as they tear at her mother's clothes and pull at her hair. She screams and curses as one of them throws her to the ground naked and bloody and burning with shame and rage.
He takes her there in the middle of the street, mounting her from behind like a wild animal. That was exactly was he was. Just a terrible, wild and savage beast from the dark recesses of the mountain. He pulls her head up by her hair as he enters her again and again. Ash mars her beautiful face, pale streaks of flesh peeking through the soot made by her tears of shame, fear, and agony. The girl watches what they do to her mother, too traumatized to look away or run. She just looks into her mothers deep blue eyes as they well up with more and more tears for herself and for her daughter.
More blood sprays across the ground in front of her followed by the body of man. She recognized the man. He was the baker and often let her sneak treats out of his store and it scared her to see someone she recognized stare back up at her with blank, dead eyes and blood spilling from his open throat. A dark steel boot steps on the dead man's hand and crushes it into the dirt. The girl looks up to see one of the armored men look down at her with his helm cradled beneath his arm and a manic smile pulling at the corners of his dry cracked lips. She can see the fires of Hell reflected in his black eyes and it makes her want to scream, to cry but her throat is raw and she can't find her voice.
The man raises his heavy blade and she can't move, frozen stiff like a hare who has caught the gaze of a deadly viper. Fear keeps her planted to the ground with it's cold skeletal embrace creeping up her spine, making her immobile. There's more blood. She's covered in it now as if it was raining down on her from the clouds. Abruptly, the light flickers out of his eyes and his smile is slowly replaced by a look of confusion and surprise. He looks down to the the blade of a sword protruding from his sternum. His blood pours down his armor like a fountain to drip on the little girls face. His face screws up into a grunt as the sword is pulled from his body, the sound of steel scraping against his spine fills the girl's ears. He makes a gargled sound as he chokes on his own blood before crumpling to his knees. He tries to reach for the girl but death reaches him first and he falls forward, his head landing in a pile of hot coals. The sound and smell of his skin cracking and popping against the heat of the coals fills her senses for a moment before the shadow of the killer sweeps over the girl's body and she looks up empty of tears and screams.
The vision of her mother looking down on her brings hope fluttering back into her chest like the frantic wing beats of a sparrow. Her naked body was riddled with cuts and burns and the sword dripping with the dead knight's blood was held firmly in both hands. It takes a moment for her to understand what had happened. Somehow, her mother had gotten hold of the sword of the man who was raping her and somehow wrestled free long enough to use it.
The girl looks up at her mother with the blank expression of a child with a broken mind. She was empty save for the frail glimmer of hope that fluttered in her heart. She wraps her good arm around her mother's leg ignoring the blood that had begun to cake on her mother's thighs, a result of the savage assault she had just experienced. Her mother throws the sword into the flames and kneels down to embrace her daughter in a tight embrace, gently pressing the girl against her chest. The child can smell the smoke in her mother's hair and feel the hot wet tears rolling down her small shoulders. She grabs a handful of her mother yellow hair and presses it against her cheek, still soft despite the heat and the grime. She looks over her mother's shoulder, taking in the view of the atrocity that was overtaking her village. Men, farmers, trying to protect their homes and their families with sickles and plows were bowled over by the mounted soldiers and cut down one after the other. Other girls, like her self, friends and familiar faces all, being trampled down or burned or worse. Young boys picking up the tools of their fallen father's and trying in vain to be brave and strong only to suffer the same fate of their parents. Women and young girls were being beaten and raped in the streets and screaming infants were being thrown into burning building or were having their skulls crushed beneath steel boots. She closes her eyes and tries to erase the dreadful sight from her mind, but her mother goes limp and the weight of her body pushes her down to the ground. She lays there a moment before struggling beneath the weight and crawling out from beneath her mother's dead body. She just stares down at her mother's immobile form and watches as the last thing left in her world dies and fades away.
She doesn't notice the noose as it is pulled taut around her neck to be dragged off her feet along the hard ground. She does not struggle. She makes no sounds of protest. She chest stares at her mother's lifeless form as she is dragged further and further away. A giant blood stained hand grabs her by the turf of her hair and pulls her to her feet to face her fate standing. A burning building stood before her with its rafters still intact. Black and shrunken bodies hung from the oak beams above the white hot flames. A group of the wretched evil knights from the mountain gather at the site, laughing and shouting in the midst of this terrible act. She is no longer sad or terrified or angry. She just stands there with a firm jaw and a stiff lip as her hands are tied behind her back. This little girl, so tiny and helpless and weak was ready to meet her fate head on at the hands of these terrible men. They push her toward the building, prodding her with their spears and their swords laughing their horrible laugh. But she does not cry or try to escape. She steps bravely up to the fire, one last act of defiance, denying these men the pleasure of seeing scream and cry in fear. Her captive tosses the rope over one of the rafters and sets her on a tall stool with his hanging rope in hand. A wicked grin spread wide across his ugly face but she does not flinch. Instead, she looks up at the sky through the burning hole in the roof and curses all those gods whom they celebrated this night. She spoke each name silently to herself and damned them to a fate worse than the one she was about the face and then they kick out the stool...oh tragic night.