This tale dates back to times before the Empire. It is unknown whether is tale is true or false, but it is the story that brought origin to the Griffin legend known as Dakkar, King of Hunters. The first part of the story was lost when the Drakehooves invaded Viljatown, but from what I recall Dakkar as a child was looked down upon by his fellows for his freindship with a nearby tribe of Ponies. This portion of the story was recovered from the remains of the Imperial Library shortly after the war of hoof and fire.
- Red Quil, Imperial Archivest and Historian.
Corva had already left for her hunt when he woke. He briefly considered chasing her troop down and joining them, but found the thought held little appeal. He simply wasn't in the mood to kill.
Instead, he flew south toward the village. Perhaps today would be the day.
Autumn had arrived in force. The valley stretched out below him, painted in brilliant reds and golds. Maples the color of blood dotted the flat plains. Towering sycamores with yellow leaves as wide as his outstretched hand lined the river as it wound south to the foothills. Only the pines draped along the edges of the mountains still held their green.
He lost himself in the riot of colors as he flew. Soon enough, winter would come, and all would be bare again. Still better than his lifeless mountain, but not as good as this. He wondered what the Ponies did in the winter.
The flight was longer than usual. He lazed his way to the village, soaring through wide turns to inspect a particularly stunning swath of the forest. Soon it would all be gone, and he wanted as many memories to cherish as he could stuff into his mind.
Something was wrong when he arrived. The fields, usually filled with working or playing children, were empty. The normal sounds of village life were gone. An empty cart, abandoned, sat in the middle of the dirt path leading to the river. The windmill was still.
He stood beside the cart. It was closer than he had ever dared approach, but there were no stallions to frighten him away. Only a few rough voices, high and scratchy, reached him over the wind. His stomach knotted into a sick ball as he trotted down the path, past the fences, and into the village.
Ponies lay everywhere. Whole and in pieces. The dirt was soaked with blood.
The blacksmith, small and pitiful in death, stretched across the threshold of his shop. Half his torso was gone.
A mare leaned against a nearby wall. A smear of blood showed how she had stumbled along it, desperate for support, until finally succumbing to the terrible gash across her chest. Fur the same color as her coat speckled the ground around her.
He stepped past the bodies, unthinking. The predator in his mind calmly cataloged their wounds, admiring the extravagant care that had gone into their deaths. They hadn't died quickly. They had been played with. His friends where murdered.
He walked over more bodies. The mayor, clutching a foal to his chest. The windmill worker, untouched except for a savaged neck. He stepped over Ponies he had seen alive, just days ago. At any moment, he expected the dead to stand and begin going about their business, as if nothing was wrong. It was impossible that they had all died. Despite his predatory instincts admiring the skill in each of the kills, he still was filled with grief.
In the center of the village he found the only things still alive: a pair of Griffins, unrecognizable beneath a draught of blood. They played in the middle of the square. Laughing, shouting with the joy only a predator knows, they tossed a foal's head between them. Patches of fur showed through the blood.
He stared at them for minutes before they noticed his presence. The larger of the two, a Griffin named Kestral, nearly dropped the head in surprise. Then a wide grin broke out across his bloodied beak, and he nodded at Dakkar.
“About time you showed up! We were wondering if you would ever hunt again!” he shouted. The other Griffin turned as well. Scraps of a pink flesh hung from the edges of his beak. Their eyes were wide and shining.
The smaller one—Accipa, he thought—laughed. The sound was wild and shocking in the silence of the village. “We'd have left some if we'd known you were coming,” he called across the square. “I think you'd have been bored, though. They weren't much of a challenge.”
Kestral walked toward him, still grinning. “It was beautiful, Dakkar. They didn't even try to fight us at first. They actually welcomed us in! Like they expected us!”
Yes, they would have. He stared at them, empty minded, lost in his memories. Ponies stopped dancing to watch him. Bonfires burned unattended. Ponies smiled and welcome him. Ponies who were dancing.
This was all his fault.
And now, lying dead, all around him. He swept his gaze over the ruins of the village. High above, carrion birds wheeled in the air. Their shadows flitted across the village like ghosts. An angry buzzing noise filled the village, like a host of cicadas had suddenly woken. He realized, after a moment of confusion, that the sound was only in his mind.
“You killed them all,” he said, half to himself. Part question, part statement. He imagined the villagers reacting in horror to the first death. Did they flee, or try to fight back? Did parents abandon their children, or die protecting them? Off to the side, an open door banged on its hinges in the wind.
“Most of them, I guess,” Kestra said. “They were a lot more fun than seals. We'll have to come looking for more--”
He never finished. Dakkars talon, pierced his throat just below the voicebox, tearing past the feathers and thin flesh and stiff cartilage in a single fluid motion. He nearly decapitated the Griffin.
The child's head fell to the ground, followed an instant later by Kestral's lifeless body.
Accipa reacted slowly. Pitifully. How could he have ever been a hunter? Rather than run, or fight, or beg for mercy, he simply stared as Dakkar turned. He raised a talom to defend himself.
It was effortless. Dakkar feinted to the left, then darted forward, catching the disoriented Griffin with a quick slash to the face. Accipa started to scream, a talon pressed against his blinded eye, when Dakkar's closed fist smashed against the back of his head. He fell, limp, and a strike to the spine just below his skull ended it. As easy as killing a seal.
He studied the bodies in silence. Only a handful of seconds had passed. He’d killed them both in a single breath. Blood still flowed from their wounds, though slower with every passing heartbeat. Its taste was fresh in his mouth.
A sound—footsteps—caught his ears. He turned to the house with its banging door. His sister stared at him, her mouth agape, her feathers sparkling like a shrouded rainbow in the bright autumn sun. From her talons hung a small pelt, purple in color, with a brand of destiny, rimmed in blood.
Love was the rarest of emotions among Griffins. A precious bond he had shared with Corva from the first minutes out of their eggs. In the deepest winters, it was the only warmth in the aerie.
“Why?” he asked her. His voice was utterly calm, as emotionless as a glacier. “They did nothing to us. Nothing to deserve this.”
For a long moment, she was silent. Her eyes danced between the dead Griffins and him. When she finally spoke, her voice was as empty as his. “Because we could, brother.”
Love, a fragile flame, blew out in the face of a predator's rage. Her pleading eyes were the last thing he remembered from that terrible day.
* * *
The few Ponies who survived the massacre fled west, toward their ancient homeland. They ran, day and night, until they dropped from exhaustion. Down the pathless forest haunts they ran, and never did they look back.
The village stood, empty and alone, until the quiet creep of time reduced the colorful buildings to rubble. Inch by inch, season by season, the fields surrendered to the forest, until nothing else remained.
In time, no one, Pony or Griffin, knew the village had ever been there at all.
* * *
Alone, at last, he returned to the aerie. Alone, at last, his nature was clear. The fetters that bound his soul melted away, and he was finally free. Free as driftwood, lost in the ocean. Free as the clouds, high in the sky. He was free to be his nature: the first, the last, and only predator. Everything else was prey.
He found his father cowering deep within the aerie, a few hours after his return. Regalan looked so much older now.
“Why?” his father asked. His voice broke with pain. Blood flowed from a dozen wounds across his body. For the first time in Regalan's life, his feathers were painted with his own blood. “Why are you doing this?”
Dakkar stood for a moment in thoughtful silence, interrupted only by the sound of Regalan's wet, ragged breath echoing in the dark chamber. It was odd; his father should be proud. This was what Griffins were born for.
“It is our nature.”
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