He sees it, fluttering white and silent, landing on his lips and melting into his mouth, tasting like ash. He sees the snow and he sees the ravens, black and black and such narrow mean eyes looking back at him.
He cannot see the demon. He cannot see his lord.
These are not the parts that Drosslemeyer wrote into the story. A story is concerned more with the wherefore of the main character, the one who is burdened down most by Fate and Destiny, and little details are easily forgotten. The death of a single knight in a snowy field is not as important as the stalemate battle where the prince turned his sword upon himself and breaks his heart.
Little details. They’re not important.
The ground under him is hard and cold. With the onset of winter, the grasses are thin and dry brown, scarcely any cushion against the rocky earth. His eyes ache with the inability to close. Wind blows cold over him, lancing against his skin.
He cannot see the demon, and he cannot see his lord.
Certain inescapable rules apply to every story. They are not always the same from one to another, but they are set in stone for that particular place, that particular time.
Vampires cannot enter a home uninvited, or they can but cannot cross running water, or they can accomplish both but crumble to dust when the sun touches them. Dogs bay at the moon for longing of the wild ancestry that was forsaken when they followed the path of man. Princesses are good and worthy, and sweet-faced peasant girls work hard to overcome the schemes of evil stepmothers, and in the end they step into the prince’s waiting arms, shepherded away to happily ever after.
Either that, or everyone dies.
A raven croaks harshly, its voice like the multitude of the dead. It sounds like a smaller, thinner version of the demon’s laughter, and it is echoed by two other ravens, out of sight, a whole mad chorus together with the shriek of the wind. Other than that, the world is deathly silent; he can no longer hear the heartbeat in his ears.
But he cannot see the demon, and he cannot see his lord.
Fakir knows better than most about the power of words. He’s experienced firsthand how his own pen could escape his ability to control, helpless as an army of ravens trampled a fragile little duck at his direction.
And maybe that had turned out fine in the end, but that had been it — the end. The knight had died and been reborn.
To this day, he’s very careful about what he puts to paper, even as he glances up from time to time to watch the sleek white duck that swims back and forth in the pond, graceful here as she rarely was on land. He thinks long and hard about each word, because it’s all important now, dreadfully so; any carelessness on his part could create another tragedy, grand as anything Drosslemeyer could design.
Only this time, Fakir is pretty sure there will be no girls who are ducks who have golden hoping hearts, who might change everything.
In the back of his throat there is blood and bile, and there is not enough snow on his lips to wash that away. The stink of rot is thick and cloying in his nose, and he can no longer remember how it was, the smell of a spring morning, or a good supper, or a girl’s long red hair. The two have sort of come together and stewing on himself, a soup of old meat and worse.
And he cannot see the demon, he cannot see his lord.
At night she dries both of her feet on the doormat before she enters the house. Fakir sets out a plate of dried bread and some water for her. She eats with surprising daintiness, like she’s still a girl, and when Fakir dares to actually touch her and running a hand across her back, she arches her neck and allows him to reach the itchy spot just under her chin.
When supper is over and the hour grows late, he carries her to bed cradled in both arms, and she settles herself neatly on his pillow, fluffing her feathers at him in an expression of deep contentment. Fakir runs a single finger through the thin tiny feathers that crown her head, watching until her eyes blink themselves shut.
He watches her sleep and lets himself drift to dreaming that way, caught by the elegant curve of her neck and the gleam of the moon on her white feathers like the white skin of a princess.
And he dreams of empty battlefields where a single girl all in white dances, barefoot, and her touch is warm where the winter chill bites deepest and cool where fever rages burning-hot, little more than a ghost and a memory herself, who smiles when she sees him before she flits out of his arms, just out of reach.
But he follows her anyway, past the silent bodies and across the bloody snow-soaked field, because someday he knows (he hopes), she will rest her wings, and then he’ll finally be able to catch her close.
He cannot see the demon. He cannot see his lord.
But for a moment he sees great white wings unfurl overhead, sheltering him from the snow as the light finally fades away and the world goes black.