FF: The Hounds of Anim

We are the chosen. We root out the dark.
We are the just. We hunt for our mark.
We are the instrument; the wicked, the tools.
We are the Hounds; the defilers, the fools.

The boughs of the trees sweated morning dew, dripping into the sea of mist below. The rays of the sun could not pierce through the shields of the canopy, and the animals of the woods remained dormant in their woodland homes. A single owl screamed into the fog, quickly receiving its answer in the echoes of the forest. The bare ground lay still, as dead as the air above it.

A pebble began to dance on the broken ground. Then another. And another. The earth shuddered and stirred as if waking from a deep slumber. The trees groaned in frustration, the mist stretched and recoiled from a single figure. Pale as the winter moon, the figure dashed across the damp floor, breathing for air like a sailor under water. An aggravated oak reached out in hate, tearing open the figure’s satchel and bleeding its contents onto the soil. Parchment, oils, a tome; each essential to a wizard’s repertoire. The mage spun around in horror, his brow calculating his odds: my spellbook or my life?

The rumbling strengthened as he heard the screeches, death nearing the final chapter. The mage clawed for his belongings, desperately bundling them like a child in his arms. His gaze met the shadows of the fog: shadows beginning to circle like vultures over a dying cub. The rumbles became thunderous; the screeches, deafening. Circling shadows became still silhouettes as the uproar became a whisper. Seven shadows stood in all, the mage entombed between them.

The wizard trembled in his own stance. The utterance of chains broke the silent air, a figure dismounting. The rattle of mail cut the air, every step reaping a wider visage of the dark knight. The mage gaped at the knight’s belt, dozens of bloodied arcane implements broken and shattered. The warriors darkened helm covered all but two red pinpricks of light that burned into the wizard’s gaze.

“Axim of Inarel,” the knight said, “you stand guilty of witchcraft and communing with dark powers in the Holy Lands. Your trial has been renounced, your sentence is death.”

Axim broke into a slight giggle.

“N-now now, chap. Is that how the church treats foreigners? Very rude indeed. I have not e-even paid my respects to the Life Giver yet! Allow me to seek a confession with him.”

The wizards fingers twirled in front of him, as a small bead began to coalesce around his pointer finger. As he looked towards the knight his eyes widened. In mere seconds, the knight had already fashioned his blade and struck like a cobra. Axim screamed in anguish as his right fingers flew into the mist. The shadows watched in silence, the executioner severing Axim’s other hand and chaining his feet. The boughs of the trees shook to the beat of the wails, tormented and tortured by pain. The warrior, after uniting the chain and his saddle, mounted his armored stallion and surveyed his men.

“You seem to be lost, traveler,” the knight said. “Allow us to escort you to the end of your journey.”

The chains cackled as the cavalry took flight, racing across the haze. As he was dragged, Axim screamed into the fog, his echoes spreading peril to every creature in the forest. Soon after the woods returned to silence. The haze reformed where the figures once stood. The bloody ground lay still, as dead as the wanderer who disturbed it.

Art Credit

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