Arien ran down the dark forest path sobbing tears of blood. She hated herself for the love she felt. She hated herself for the puppet she had become. She hated herself for the evil she had done. She hated herself for the weakness she felt. She hated herself…
Her once fine gown of crimson velvet was tattered and barely covered her body. Her pale flesh was lashed and broken, bleeding darkly upon the remnants of the once fine cloth. With a cry of some obscure emotion, she rounded the bend where the stone boy hung crucified to the smooth grey stone wall stained black by his own ancient blood. There was a sudden sharp pulse from her phantom heart as the boy, her only love, came into view. So many forgotten emotions she had to fight; love, hate, regret, pain, longing, and though through her eyes it was a visible battle, her face held only one victor, misery. Even as her stride faltered ever so slightly, she continued forward and softly spoke the final spell of releasing. Unlike before, he would not wake gently from his long sleep, but be ripped from the realm of spirits back to the mortal plain.
He gasped as he fell forward into Ariens arms, the blood from her battered body painting his bare chest. His body remained limp for a moment as he slowly and deeply took in the cold night air, when he finally pulled himself away his expression remained cold and unchanged.
"There isn't much time, you must leave!" she said in a shaky voice. The overwhelming darkness within her fought for control, putting her on the brink of helplessness, but she would not give in, not yet.
"There is no other place I wish to go," he said simply, his small but proud antlers vanished as though they were never there, only to be replaced by fox like ears and a long red tail, though as soon as she realized what they were had changed once again to another likeness of a forest creature. Amongst the changes, his face and body stayed the same, tall and calm, as patient as the earth itself.
"You don't understand!" she cried desperately, "My master is coming!"
"I have faced him before and I still stand before you alive," he said serenely, again his antlers shadowed in, only grander than before, more menacing.
"Dane… please listen to me." She put her pale hand on his dark cheek. "You're all I have left. I don't want to lose yo-"
As if on cue the massive castle behind them just in view was suddenly engulfed in a black cyclone from the ground up with a terrible roaring pulse of rage. And like an arrow from a bow the black winds took the shape of a horrendous serpent and shot towards them, roaring terribly, as the trees bent and broke before its coming. Arien trembling wrapped her arms around Dane's torso and to her surprise felt only calm as she watched the terrifying sight approach. Dane's own powerful aura formed a shield for the two as the ground itself was tore and whipped away just around them. Two massive red eyes opened above the snout of the black serpentine figure as he approached with such speed that even Arien, the once loyal servant, hid her face in Dane's chest, wanting nothing more to closer her eyes and wish it all away. Even so, Dane stood his ground unblinking as the terrible creature slammed to a stop right in front of him, almost forehead to forehead, eye to eye, rage staring deep into a bottomless pit of patience and calm and bellowed:
"A second time you have tried to take what belongs to me!" Its voice was that of a thousand damned souls screaming for release, yet at the same time the deep voice of a single man.
"I have taken nothing from you, for you cannot claim what never was meant to be yours in the first place." Dane stated this in a calm voice, which did not match the slow approaching look of pure hatred that filled his once emotionless eyes. A muscle in his cheek began to tic and his eyebrows began to pull together as anger began to emerge from a long since forgotten place deep within his human mind. The unholy dragon smoldered, but slowly a terrible spiral of a grin pulled its way upon his hideously contorted face.
"You can feel your heart like a ghost when I'm in your presence." He said simply. "I feel its beating in my gullet. Even after all these years I still feel it. It is a one of a kind after all….the only heart I've had to take by force." He scoffed in a low throaty chuckle. "Here, Arien my unfaithful, watch and learn. See your precious windigo change as the power of his accursed heart beats ever nearer." The demon spat in amusement as blood flowed from his jaws and dripped from his crooked fangs. He stepped closer to Dane, who amazingly stepped back and growled low in his throat.
"Keep your distance wretched being, your presence proves a danger to all of us as well as yourself!" As he spoke he grew taller and muscle rippled thicker in his arms and chest.
"You did not hesitate to fight me all those years ago Stone Heart, so why now?" The dark lord took another step gazing curiously as course brown fur sprouted all over Danes body.
"Stay back I say!" he cried as his once human figure blurred and swelled.
"I think not," stated the demon, clipping off each word as its smile spiraled round its nearly stitched tight lips. Stepping backward again, the formless creature that was Dane glared in an unsounded roar as his face elongated sickeningly into a snout of a stag, filled with sharp fangs and a purple tongue. The antlers upon his head became wicked and gnarled, and his body swelled to immense proportions with iron hard muscle. It seemed the most dangerous elements of all the creatures of the forest manifested itself upon his terrible, misshapen body until it towered over the demon and let loose with a roar that echoed across the width and breadth of Ariens dark city. But the serpent only licked at the blood that still oozed from his smirking face.
"You see Arien darling, how easy it was to turn your "love" into a monster?" Arien's face was filled with pain and sorrow for her once beloved, she tried to look away as the monster took a step forward on the grossly muscular hind legs of a horrid wolf and the ground shook with impact of his heavy paws. The smirking snake remained unafraid, only amused.
"You trespass again demon!" hissed the thing that had once been Dane in a tortured strangle of a voice, his eyes, full of fire, blazed at the beast.
"You are not even a shadow of what you once were," He whispered, snarling lightly, and without warning, struck out against him. Matching the unbelievable speed Dane caught its clawed hand in his own terrible grasp which was neither hoof, nor paw, nor hand. And despite all of his muscle that bulged and strained against the overwhelming force, he was pushed back, and then amazingly, to his knees.
Opening his massive maw of wicked fangs and writhing snake tongues, the windigo roared in such a bottomless pitch of hate, the very strings of reality were severed and destroyed if only for the tiniest of moments. The mournful howl seemed to be an unseen embodiment of the damned trying to pry free from hell through its awful jaws. With a snarl of disgust the demon smote the awful thing with its free claws sending Dane's gigantic body thundering to the ground. The wicked dragon was on top of him in a moment's breath, holding him down as the thick cords of the windigo's mane hissed and snapped with lives of their own at the demon. He leaned ever closer to whisper into Dane's ear:
"Weaker than a child, as pathetic as you are ignorant, and stupidly stubborn clinging to who can never love you again, or will never want to ever again after seeing your true form." The dark blood that had always poured from Dane's ancient wounds writhed like leeches slithering upon the sickly yellow hide of the demon only to burn and chip away. "All you want is your heart I know too well." Crooned the demon. "It must be horrible, knowing its warmth yet to be unable to feel it." He reached his clawed hand down his long throat and pulled out Dane's still throbbing heart, oozing with its own and the serpent's foul blood. "The pain you must endure for this disgusting, pulsing organ." The devil squeezed until the heart's eternal fluttering began to falter, the organ began to pop chamber by chamber as blood trying to escape, began pouring through the newly formed holes the needle like claws of the demon had made. Black and crimson blood dripped off the serpent's clawed hand and seeing Dane's growing rage, lead the foul one to lift it high into the air so the flow would go into his mouth, staining his beige face red with Dane's life blood. Seeing his heart for the first in a life age, Dane's hatred was once again fueled and his strength was restored, only for a moment, but long enough to catch the wicked demon off guard. Erupting from beneath the devil like a tempest, Dane threw the figure from atop him, all the while screeching bellowed curses, and snatched his dying heart from the devil's stained claws. Feeling the power of this reunited, Dane threw back his twisted muzzle and howled as he was again made whole.
His body grew more and more terrible, rams horns curled within the gnarled mess of stag's antlers.
Awful wings of both flesh and feather spread from his gruesome back long into the night. His aura as huge as the oceans were deep flared up around him. Though even as his heart was restored, the infuriated demon rose up blazing with unholy rage emitting a shadow darker than the blackest night swirling and spinning, surrounding the grove that had so long been Dane's prison. And though the thought flooded his now cluttered mind with agony, an emotion he could only now feel and remember, he knew he had to give his heart up again. For no matter his strength he was not strong enough to defeat the demon.
"You shall never have my heart again!" Dane roared out his defiance into the face of the demonic storm before bellowing an incantation, a spell old as it was powerful to protect it from the dark power that would hunt it, and then drawing back with every ounce of his unnatural strength he hurled the flaming organ into the black heavens, away from the demon, which now howled like the screaming winds at his loss. Immediately the giant beast Dane had become began to fall away fading into shadows and dust, leaving only the boy who had once loved and lived on his knees at the demon's mercy. His antlered head downcast, blood ran as tears down his cheeks as they had run down Arien's delicate face before, and soon slowly felt his spirit fade as he shifted, once again, from life to stone.
Silence prevailed and the demon stood there as a young man, darkly clad with frozen eyes and cold moon hair, before Arien who was now huddled behind the grey trees of the forest. Her tears were drying on her now emotionless face.
"I was a fool wasn't I?" She whispered, her soft crimson eyes never daring to leave a far off place somewhere beyond her unhappy life that she had long ago created. Wrapping a cold arm around her pale shoulders, the demon whispered soothingly into her ear as a one would do to their lover.
"Worry not about it my love, for now you see how quickly he gave up everything, even you. These creatures who call themselves human, these creatures that throw a powerful thing such as love around as though it were their own creation… They know nothing of love. Only I…and you, my dear Arien, my dear Heartbreaker, know of it's true potential..." Arien's delicate hand closed over the dark lord's own upon her shoulder and after a moment's pause, allowed him to gently pick her up and carry her back to the castle. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the chill of his breast but only to hide a single ruby tear that fought its way out from her aching soul. The demon, though gentle and kind now to his puppet, seethed with such towering hatred that his blood burned from containing such power within his old pathetic human form. He turned to glare at the kneeling, bowing statue, bleeding sluggishly upon the ground. And with a blazing, sharp eye he willed the dark and faded trees to close around the grove surrounding the statue utterly in the darkness. Prison bound once again.
"What is mine is mine forever, and though you may have saved your own wretched heart from my never ending hunger, you will never save your precious Arien. Her heart is mine, her soul is mine, her life is mine, her love… is mine. Never again, Stone Heart, shall you feel her skin on yours, or see her smile or hear her voice. For what is mine is mine forever, eternity and forever."