Kheros

          People were moving. Some walked, some rode horses, a few who were rich enough rode in the relative comfort of their wagons. They were going to different places, but it was a busy day, so they all had to share the road.

          At the edge of the trees, not far from the road, a prince was dying, and no one paid any attention. It wasn't that they didn't notice, they just didn't care.

          The boy had drug himself from the trees, and now lay in sight of the road, pleading with his dying breaths for help. No one gave any. They were all far too busy, doing whatever it was they were doing. Besides, they all thought, people die every day, no sense trying to change things.

          Blood ran down his face, heavy claw marks marring the right side of his face, just beneath his eye. His ear and his upper lip were in similarly bad shape, torn and shredded. Though he'd fought back against his attacker, as evidenced by the scar on his shoulder, he had not succeeded.

          But maybe this is the wrong place to start. After all, you know nothing of the boy in question, and are likely wondering why this is important. Let's go backwards a little...

          Prince Nighthawk awoke with the sunrise, as he always had. He lay in his bedroom, amid all the expensive trinkets he'd accrued over the years. His father had apparently decided that trinkets would somehow make up for his no longer having a mother, but it had never really concerned the boy in the first place.

          He dressed himself in a black suit, complete with a jacket with no buttons and a black tophat, then wandered out into the main halls of the mansion.

          His father was in the main hall, speaking with some peasant about crops. The prince waved briefly, signaling his father that he'd return later. His father waved a similarly brief reply, and returned his attention to his guest. The prince excused himself past the butler, and wandered into the forest. One of the royal hounds trotted along beside him.

          Several hours past, and nothing really interesting happened. Mostly, the prince just walked toward the center of the forest, and that was it.

          Then the prince entered a clearing, and removed his jacket, laying it upon a nearby rock. He bent over, and picked up a smoothed staff, which he had fashioned himself, and left here for the purpose of being picked up by him.

          Then he cast a spell. It was flashy, but didn't do much else. He cast another spell. It made a lot of wind, but nothing that was sufficiently focused or strong to hurt anything. No sense practicing a skill he, a prince, would never need.

          The dog, which for the duration of the excercise had lounged lazily at the edge of the clearing, pricked up it ears, tensed all its muscles, and stood growling at the trees.

          The prince walked over beside the dog, clutching the staff with nervous hands.

          "What is it, boy?"

          The dog growled a response, but the Prince was still trying to learn Dog, and didn't quite catch it. He looked out into the darkness. "We had better head back."

          The dog followed him to the rock where the jacket had been left.

          The jacket wasn't there.

          The dog growled, yelped, and burst into an impressive display of panic. Its tail burst into flame, and it rushed off into the trees, trying desperately to catch the flames in its teeth and shake them out. Some schools of thought would have found the dogs actions to be highly amusing, but the prince was not in that frame of mind, and probably wouldn't have been in any other circumstances, either.

          He was alone. Well, he knew someone--or something--was out there, but they obviously weren't friendly. He clutched the staff.

          A low, rumbling chuckle emerged from the trees. The prince shifted his hat back from over his eyes, ruffling his blue hair.

          The chuckle came again, this time accompanied by its owner. A tangled mess of hair hung over his eyes, and what rags he wore were torn and filthy with dirt, twigs, and the usual unidentifiable things that stick to clothes in forests. The monster, which it most certainly was, had an unpleasant gleam in its otherwise dull, soulless eyes. It approached.

          "Prince Kheros Nighthawk, all alone in the woods..."

          The prince tightened his grip. "I am armed. I will not die easily."

          The monster grinned, his shaggy face contorting disturbingly with the scars that ran through it.

          Then it leapt, claws extended, mouth wide with fangs exposed, and knocked the prince onto his back. The prince rolled to the side painfully, aware of the blood running down his face from where two claws had left heavy marks beneath his eye.

          He swung the staff as hard as he could, aiming for the beast's head. He hit, the impact jarring his bones and making a heavy CRACK as the monster's head jerked to the side.

          While the beast regained use of its mental facilities, he scrambled to his feet and took flight, running across the clearing and towards the royal road. It was a long way off, but if he could just stay ahead of the abomination...

          The abomination in question ran into him from behind, gouging a chunk of flesh from his arm, which went limp and dropped the staff. He kicked backwards blindly, making contact with a shaggy leg, which made an unpleasant snapping noise. The prince ran ahead.

          The monster was in front of him, it's left leg bent at an unnatural angle, red flecks drifted in its eyes, and blood ran from its mouth. It leaped again. He turned away from the attack, but the monster raked its claws across the side of his face, taking part of his lip and ear down as it fell.

          He stomped on its other leg and ran ahead.

          He could hear it behind him--and it was gaining.

          He spun around, the movement forcing him to his knees as his vision blurred and his head throbbed. He held up his left hand, and muttered a well-rehearsed phrase under his rasping breath.

          The wind stopped all at once, then gathered itself around his outstretched hand. It blasted out in a visible beam, sucking in loose leaves, pine needles, dirt, and a few whole branched that, until now, hadn't been considered loose.

          It all hit the wolfman in the chest with a WHUMP, and sent him flying against a tree trunk with a SCRACK. The tree shuddered. Blood spattered the trunk, and several other trees in the surrounding area.

          The prince fell on his face, and drug himself toward the road.

          You've already heard the next bit. The prince bled out beside the road, and with his last breath, said, "Oh."

          No one heard him.

          The next day, his body was nowhere to be found.

          King Nighthawk was unhappy, and had a giant stone placed in the graveyard out back. It didn't help the pain. It was just a trinket, and did nothing to ease the pain.

          So he had all the people who did nothing executed, and he felt a little better. He was that kind of king.

          In the graveyard was a large stone monument. It read "Kheros" and the year of the Prince's birth and death, but nothing more. There was a fairly interesting line under the name, with a bit of decoration, but no other words, just empty space.

          Years later, more words had appeared on it, but no one noticed them. They read "Long gone, long forgotten." They'd been melted into the surface.

          And a new king came to the Mansion, which had been through a bit and had gotten bigger.

          And the new king asked of the blue-furred demon that greeted him, "But what shall I call you?"

          The demon thought. "Kheros."

          "Kheros?" Said Issac.

          "Just Kheros."

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