It is a young man, this time, robes feathered with dust and hands smudged with ink and charcoal, who pauses to pay heed to the poor man’s wants. This one grants no words, holds no conversations of pity or torment—the beggar can see, in the arrogant slant of his shoulders, that it is only the dirt of scrolls and books he does not think below him.
(What is the beggar but irrelevant dust? Kindling to ashes, flesh to dust—he has not the money for kindling, and has hardly enough flesh to give back to the ground that birthed him.)
The scholar raises his arm high into the air, hand fisted, golden eyes pensive. (His face is soft and young, but its expression is hard, faceted and unchangeable like the gem eyes of the puppeteer’s ghoul.)
From the sky sounds a hawk’s sharp keen, slicing through their ears faster than the beast plummeting through the sky like a steel bullet, wings glinting scarlet in the sun. With a rush of air and a jerky buckle of folding metal, the Skarmory lights at the man’s side. Its claws curl into the cobblestones, breaking spiraled cracks into their surface; hooded eyes glitter beneath the still-gaping beak. He does not cringe, does not shift even an inch amidst the winds and howls of the fierce bird’s descent; his eyes remain cool, steelier than the Skarmory’s jagged form even as the beggar claps his hands against his ears and tries to scuttle back on his age-bent legs.
The mime has not hazarded to show his caricature-paint face since the puppeteer gave her alms; this time, there are no mocking frowns and tears, no stop-motion charades to ridicule the music stumbling from the beggar’s ragged strings. For this, the beggar is glad. (The woman's scarlet threads still dangle from his wrist.)
The winds die between their feet.
When the fist drops, blackened fingers uncurling, the Skarmory’s wings collapse back onto its body with a twist. The hunter relaxes its grip on the cobblestones as its master approaches. His hands pry at the cold metal sides, invading the great bird’s space, scrabbling to grasp the silver feather that tops its wingspan in one hand. Head lowering in a knee-jerk reaction, the Skarmory butts its crest desperately, seeking to push the scholar from its side (and the reaction is unnatural, indicating a relationship more of fear and disdain between the Pokémon and its master.)
“Kovis!” The scholar’s rebuke is sharp, too sharp for the situation; it holds the frustrations of years behind its tone. Struggling harder, the steel-sculpted hawk releases a furied cry, jerking against its master’s unforgiving hands as they part its bladed feathers with an unforgiving yank. A moment later, the scholar has his hand wrapped around the feather, twisting, breaking. “Kovis!” he grinds again, words harsh and guttural. “Stand still!” More fumbling, and he has ripped one crimson feather from its socket.
Kovis’ cry strikes the very stones. Abused, betrayed, tormented—the shriek rattles glass windows and sends rubble crumbling from the rooftops. It is the shriek of a hunter fettered, an honorable beast never granted respect in return.
Even as the keen dies down, the Skarmory is leaping from the ground, struggling to take flight—but there is a gaping hole in its wingspan, a tightrope of air amidst anchors of steel. The jump takes it high in the air, and for a moment, Kovis is once again a bullet in the sky. But when the wind comes, everything comes crashing to the ground at its master’s feet, squawking a pathetic protest.
(And the predator is nothing but a twitching, weak, useless pile of scrap metal without its wings.)
The scholar’s booted foot connects with the torso of the grounded Skarmory, and a hollow metallic peal rings out, clearer than a bell, duller than the slate expression on the scholar’s face. “Skar…”
A broken finger finds the harp strings, plucks its sorrow for the fallen giant. The note vibrates in the sharp edges of the Skarmory’s switch-blade tail, shudders up through its form to the useless, gap-feathered wing, the twisted chink-metal neck, the crest of the downcast head.
The scholar squeaks, and the feather in his hand clatters to the ground. Blood pools from a slice on his hand, carved into the flesh with the metal’s vibrations.
Gold eyes search out the beggar’s one glittering eye. With a sneer and a turn of his head, he kicks the metal blade towards the alms cup. The beggar does not move to pick it up—merely sits motionlessly with his broken fingers curled unnaturally over the harp strings.
“Well? Is that how you’re going to repay me for my trouble? I cripple Kovis for your sake, make him like you, offer you the un-tarnished cause of his distress—all to make you more whole. And you refuse to accept my gift?” The scholar’s face is sheeted with steel.
“I cannot lift it; my fingers are broken.”
He shrugs. “Mine are bleeding.” And the ink-and-blood-stained man with the expressions of cold gems and too-polished metals turns his face away.
(The Skarmory’s glass pale eyes shut on the image of their pain, flutter-hopping down the street in its cruel master’s wake. And the beggar does not touch the crippling feather.)
Originally Posted by THE AUTHOR
Inspiration from poke123’s story, because he mentioned a few concepts of Greek mythology ‘n then proceeded to work ‘em into his story. I recently was exposed to huge numbers of Greek statues (<3 Hellenistic period), and as such decided to steal Roman city layouts and social standards for housing. That’s right, kids. It makes no sense.
So. That dude came out twice as lame and petty as I intended; I'm proud of myself. It'll be fun to get into him. Meanwhile, I am still blatantly ripping off thematic elements of Patricia A. McKillip, and will continue to do so under the excuse that this is vaguely a crossover. Kindof. Not really. But it will be my excuse. Also, the plot is now almost halfway set up. Yay.