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Posted: Mar 8 2015, 12:36 AM
Achilles Thanos Halden
"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins?"
violent — loyal — vindictive — control freak — outrageous
Achilles used no other name but Red Knight until the portals opened; his new name means "pain" and "death"
Achilles wasn't born with the name. In fact, he was born Xander no-middle-name Hansen. His family wasn't exactly of the upper crust. His father owned a butchery in some Podunk backwater town far beyond the Tulgey wood. Out in the sticks and dirt of a town so small it had no name, at least not to Xander’s recollection, he grew up as most normal kids go. Eat lipid porridge, work in Father’s shop, mop up the blood in the back room when the stench grew too strong. His father, Malcolm, wasn't particularly interesting as Wonderlanders go. Some snub-nosed, red faced older gentleman who couldn't be bothered to glance at his oldest child more than once a week.
Mother dearest, however, now she was a face to recall. Pudgy cheeks that somehow worked on her narrow features, curly brown hair, and a stately figure almost equal to her husband’s in height. She could sweet-talk most of the villagers into that extra pound, and maybe little special something on the side. Malcolm didn't much care—marriage at the time had been a convenience. Maybe no one would have heard of a young, big-eared boy named Xander if the family came off at face value.
They rarely do.
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”I remember,” Achilles tastes the words on his tongue. Remember. What did he remember? ”I remember so many things.
“I remember the first time Mother Dearest hugged me. Strange to think how long ago that was, and how time dragged like a heavy satchel in the mud. Much too much. She pulled me into her arms when I was nine while I was scrubbing the stone counter Father kept the best meats on display. She had been in mid-rant when the Tailor walked through the door, little copper bell ringing with a cheery taunt. The woman paused, her frumpy figure a shadow across the bare floor. Mother’s head popped up, lips parted, and she wrapped both arms around my ribcage. Her head touched my shoulder and I wondered, why? Why is this woman touching me, why won’t she get her fetid, sour breath off my neck? But she squeezed me tight and simpered at the Tailor until the frumpy woman smiled indulgently and waddled further into the room. With a gentle pat to my cheek she promptly forgot about us.
“Mother Dearest never forgets. The moment the Tailor was gone Mother took an innocuous short broom off the far wall, walked over, and slapped me so hard I had a bruise across my shoulder for a week. But that was fine. It matched my Technicolor stomach and the vicious burn across my calf from when I fell asleep on the floor in the living room instead of tucked away in the back room.
“I preferred the physical abuse to the verbal, personally. I’d rather wear a motley of bruises rather than hear those words out of her mouth again. I tried desperately to get rid of you, vermin child. Look at you! Just like that ugly father of yours--Father wasn't the man she spoke of. I tried drowning you, starving you, you little bastard. Why wouldn't you just die? And she had. I’m not sure why I survived. Maybe Father kept me alive in the end out of guilt. Or maybe I was too tenacious to die. Whatever the reason, she didn't deserve the satisfaction.
“If it had been simply that, I could have survived it until I was old enough to escape. I might have even managed a more commonplace life—in so much as a Wonderlander could have. I had no special powers. I was no great beast like the Jabberwocky. I had nothing to my name; a peasant. A child. Worthless, damned. That was fine. I didn't need greatness. I just wanted to survive. But Mother Dearest didn't do anything by halves. See, the first time she hugged me it wasn't simply the gesture that had the Tailor smiling. It was the rotund features of my mother’s abdomen—the small child within.
“I can't begin to describe how happy I was. A child? A sweet, tiny little life? I didn't fully understand what it meant until I saw her swaddled up and cooing, golden wisps peeking out of the blanket. She had these bright pink cheeks and big blue eyes—they shifted to green, like mine. She was beautiful, perfect. Little Guinevere. I loved her more than I had ever loved anything. Even when she was a baby I doted on her—and so did everyone else. Mother had a soft fondness for the child. It must have been the curls, lighter than mine, and the rosy cheeks. My cheeks never looked like that. But I could see it sometimes. When she looked at my sister’s eyes something darkened in her own.
“But that’s too early to say.
“I was fifteen years old, gawky but short for my age. I never really grew into a decent height. Father was 6’2”. But then, he wasn't mine was he? Anyway. Fifteen and thin as a whisper, no real muscle mass but for the natural genetics of being a bastard—I’m sorry. Male. Mother still had me by a few inches and her soft, lady curves had retained themselves. Whatever her reason, I wasn't certain at the time. Father was not a handsome bloke—and he was much older than her. I was working the shop while Father divvied up a fresh batch of meat to sell that weekend. It was near winter, now that I think of it. A customer was just leaving and Gwen, around six I think, was playing in the middle of the floor, rolling one of my old rocking horse-flies across the dirt. The toy skittered a little farther than she anticipated, I could see it in her face.
“And then suddenly mother was there, crushing it under her boot. She knew I’d given the toy to Gwen; it must have irked her. 'By the bells, foolish child. Why are you making a nuisance of yourself?' Or something equally as pointless. It wasn't my sister she was mad at, though I only put it together later on. The woman who had just left was the daughter of one of the villagers, a willowy thing. Her father had honey blond hair and big green eyes, just like she had. I thought she was pretty as you please back then—but there wasn't much to look at in the backwater town.
“I didn't know Mother Dearest liked to flaunt her…particular skills…around town. I didn't know Father was sterile. But Mother took one look at the girl walking out the door and then her narrowed eyes fell on Gwen. With a sharp kick she sent Gwen into the wall four feet behind her. Gwen hit with a crack—“ Achilles’ fists clench, red spilling from his palm. A sharp intake of breath, flared nostrils. He cracks his neck, both sides, then begins again. ”I don’t know what Mother called her. Something hateful. I don’t even remember taking a step. But suddenly I was beside her as Mother’s foot reared back for another kick. Gwen looked up at me, eyes watering, lower lip quivering. Her doleful green eyes looked so confused—why they were asking me. Why me?
“I don’t remember hitting Mother Dearest the first time. But I remember the second because my knuckles burned and Mother had reeled backward, away from Gwen. And then Mother lost her footing. Someone screamed – I think it was Gwen – but by then I didn't care. I started hitting her and I kept going, one knee in Mother’s stomach, one hand framing her godforsaken brown curls—the ones I inherited. Mother gurgled on red foam but I didn't stop. Mother stopped breathing but I kept hitting harder, harder, until the blood on her face didn't belong solely to her. Her windpipe was crushed, her face battered and swollen. And her sightless eyes looked up at me. For once, for once in my entire worthless existence, there wasn't malice in her gaze. There was nothing.
“Gwen keened in the background, a high-pitched shrill, the one little girls are born with. I’d never heard it from her before except when she had to take a bath or go to bed. And even then, never like this. She screeched so loud it hurt my ears and then I realized that's all I could hear. I rushed over to her, arms tucked around her little body. I think her arm was broken but I was too young and stupid to realize. I cradled her on my lap and she scrambled closer. Poor child, she didn't know what I’d just done. She just kept crying, whimpering my name between sobs. Xan-Xan.” Achilles pauses. Shoulders, once tight, sink. He swallows, an audible gesture.
“The sounds brought unwanted attention. A few people wandering nearby paused to look toward our butchery but no one approached. An opened door creaked from the back area and I all but fell over to see who it was. Father, cheeks reddened and eyes angry. His hands were shaking. I’d never seen them do that before and I’d seen him kill a baby pig for a festival without so much as a twitch. He stalked over to us and he was shouting. Either Gwen’s screaming had dulled my hearing or I just couldn't understand what he was saying. I didn't know what he yelled until he slammed his fist into me. I would have taken it—I always took the brunt of punishment. I deserved it.
“But his actions sent Gwen to the ground and that son of a bitch stepped on her arm. If it hadn't been broken before that point, it certainly was now. I remember shaking—and thinking, ah. That’s why Father’s shaking. It’s rage. I pushed Gwen to the side and leaned up onto my knees to catch the second blow on my forearm, and lucky for Gwen. He struck with the cleaver this time. Blood stained the steel blade. Pig, chicken, who knew what was crusted on that thing. But I was now, too. I didn't feel anything. I rose to my feet and shoved him. I was weaker and smaller than him by nearly a foot. I was a child. But he was old, and he was slow as an ox. He lashed out and we grappled until somehow I had the cleaver. I don’t remember when or how.
“I do remember watching the blade sink into the side of his neck. He looked astonished, one hand reaching out toward me. His other clutched at his throat. I didn't know people had so much red inside them. I’d helped Father plenty of times in the back room, watched plenty of poor animals bled out in the pits. I’d never watched blood pump from a person’s throat. It was horrible. And yet it was so satisfying, watching him drop to the ground. He lay a few feet from Mother Dearest, and her own sticky insides muddled the dirt with his.”
Achilles shakes his head. His fists fall open but the red continues to drip in rivulets down his fingers. A small smile grows in the corner of his mouth and he looks up for the first time since he spoke Guinevere’s name. Unwashed hair hangs lank across his forehead. He shrugs, eyes fluttering closed for a split second. ”I ran. I took off as if they’d set the hounds on me. As well I should. I was a murderer, a demon child. Mother Dearest always knew me best.” Someone’s breath hitches, quickly silenced. Achilles’ eyes flicked up, narrowing.
“Do you doubt that? Of course she did, why do you think she tried drowning me as a child? She may have been the first to see it but it didn't do her a damn lick of good. Now, are you going to stop quivering like a caged rabbit or am I going to have to take matters into my own hands?” Something drops to the ground. A scuffle ensues as someone retrieves it, shaking. “Better.” Achilles smiles but it isn't pleasant. “You asked me how I managed to become the right hand of the former Queen, a strange and violent man appearing seemingly out of nowhere, correct?” Pause. “This is your answer. No, she didn't take me in after the massacre. That happened many years later, when I was a young man. I lived as a brigand for a while. I couldn't get a respectable job, not some monster like me. But I sure could kill.
“I’d stumbled unknowingly onto the Queen in her carriage, her retinue in full swing. I figured, ‘Perfect. Easy score’. It wasn't. I saw gold filigree and took my chances. When half of her guard lay bleeding or dead the Queen stepped out from her carriage. She kept her eyes on me as I massacred the rest of them. When I reached toward the man guiding the carriage, his trousers soaked with something a bit more pungent than sweat, she called out. ’You,’ she smiled. It was like mine.” Achilles smiles again. “You see it, don’t you? The similarities?
“’Work for me,’ she said. ’I like your style.’ She snapped her fingers and I was hooked.” His smile softens for a split second. “You could say I loved her. Not in the simple sense. Not in the amorous, let’s fuck like bunnies sort of way. She was like me. She had something inside her, something rotten. Her soul festered, and I could smell it. She could smell mine too, putrid and black, shriveled like a raisin. And she smiled. I smiled. We were one, and I became hers. It’s as simple as that, don’t you think?”
Taylor — Twenty-two — Arizona — Pm — Pierre
Posted: Mar 9 2015, 03:18 PM
ACHILLES! I love his app so much, he came from such humble beginnings and did very well for himself! Looking forward to seeing how he works with the new Queen and the situation between Jaq and Judas!