Crosswinds: Gryphon Down

“Tell me where the gryphon is. Now!” she shouted out. Her breath started to grow heavy. Each swing, each thrust dug into heavy flesh… it took a toll on Juliette that wasn’t exclusively physical.

Juliette collapsed, surrounded by blood and dead men. It came as no surprise that the guards in the mansion didn’t take kindly to her intrusion, and a fight had broken out. Juliette had cut them all down in a brutal, grinding, close-quarters battle. Her clothes, face, and hair were all covered in blood. Her entire body felt heavy, but she pushed herself to keep going.

The only ones left standing in her way were neither armed nor guardsmen. It was the family who owned the estate that she had turned into a bloodbath. A mother and father, protectively embracing their teenage son.

“Please hear us out,” the mother pleaded, her tone desperate. “Why are you doing this? What do you want—”

Juliette looked them in the eyes, burning the image of the family, the moment when they realised she wasn’t going to spare them, into her head. Her hands remained steady, and she cut them down. Unlike the guards, many of whom were spending their last moments groaning in pain, Juliette made sure the family was dead. Perhaps she didn’t want to suffer through hearing their final pleas.

By now, she had gotten used to the weight of human flesh against her blade. An ugly, numb, and empty sensation.

She walked through the house, finding the door to the backyard. She kicked it open, startling virtually every animal on the other side. The place reminded her of home: a tiny forest enclosed in the yard, filled with houses and shelters for all sorts of animals… but this time, they were all hiding from her, afraid that they’d become the next target of her massacre.

She walked through the trees, feeling nothing but the growing weight of her limbs, blood dripping down her face and hair. Each small breeze of the wind made her feel the warmth of all the blood on her.

Finally, she heard it: the familiar hawk-like call of a gryphon.

Charlie!

She picked up her pace, fighting against the pain and the weakness to walk just a little bit faster.

After all this time… she finally laid her eyes on her gryphon.

“C-Charlie…”

Juliette took a step forward, extending her arm to reach out to it, but Charlie backed away, screeching. The animal seemed… fearful, on guard.

“Charlie… don’t you recognize me? It’s me… Juliette.”

Is it because of the blood on me? But I don’t know how to clean it all off in time.

“Charlie, please. Trust me. It’s me,” she pleaded, slowly moving closer towards the gryphon. “Let’s go home, okay?”

Her gestures only seemed to alarm Charlie, who backed off in a panic, repeatedly growling and screeching at Juliette. The gryphon decided it had had enough. It crouched down onto the ground and stretched its wings.

“Wait—“

Charlie flapped its wings, and took itself off the ground. Juliette could do nothing but watch as her gryphon’s silhouette disappeared into the night sky.

There was a moment of silence as Juliette tried to find her thoughts in the midst of a loud, hazy fog.

I… I have to meet back with Areum… He can help me track Charlie down…

She slowly started making her way back through the backyard and into the mansion. There, she was greeted by the sight of her gruesome work: the corpses of the noble family that had lived here, the bodies of the guards protecting them…

Juliette dropped onto her knees — mostly due to her body finally giving in to fatigue, but also from seeing everyone she had butchered… She suddenly understood.

Charlie… has never seen me like this before, has she?

She knelt in place, silently taking in the dreadful, haunted atmosphere. She looked at the bodies around her. In a horrific epiphany, she realized she had murdered a family, along with everyone they had employed. As Juliette stared into the dark, empty eyes of those once so full of life — of fear –Juliette wondered when she’d been driven into being capable of… this.

I… What would Marla think, if she could see me now…?

Would she… still recognize me? Would she know me as Juliette?

Or would she… get scared and… run away…?

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