The Chained Gargoyle
Dusk began to dwindle as nightfall overtook the quiet coastal village, the shadows beginning to crawl out from their hiding places. These dark movements crept and clawed atop any area they could, protruding from the crevices they are banished to during the sunlit hours. The sun glimmered its last beam, then was swallowed up by the mountainous horizon looming in the distance. Without the sun, the shadows were once more allowed to rule, dancing and engulfing everything they could touch. There is one place though that the shadows cannot penetrate, no matter how hard they try. The cathedral.
The building seemed equally as large to the mountains as did the mountains to the cathedral but the cathedral never grew dark like the mountains would. The cathedral was a holy place, a pure place. This is where the Saints dwell and pray, those who would filter the darkness out from the light, from the world and from mans bodies and souls. As bright and pure as this place may seem to be though, a sinister being still lurks around its sturdy and ornate walls. A winged beast that preys on all manner of flesh and bone, that knows no form of honor or love. It strikes with powerful speed and strength and with an unrelenting hatred. A creature known as a Gargoyle...
The shadows had now come to a rest in the outside world, beyond the well illuminated windows of the massive church. As the shadows finally lay sated and quiet, a noise broke the still air. A shudder and crack atop the large exterior of the chapel, almost as if the building was falling apart. Yet, it was not the building nor any pertinent part of it, but a foreigner, an intruder. A thing cursed by the warm, sun filled hours of the day. Cursed to become immobile and helpless when not in coexistence with the shadows. Of course, this curse could be used as a blessing as well, keeping oneself asleep and sealed away from danger until the best time for hunting and travel. Every gargoyle knew these rules, since their very birth in the darkness away from the ruling rays of the sun. However, the sun was gone, and the beast was hungry.
With a dusty explosion, the beast burst from its shell of stone, crashing down on a lower portion of the roof. Its eyes did not have to adjust for there was no light to blind it, only the gracing cold touch of the darkness. Without delay the winged terror swooped down from the building, scanning for its next meal. It was not long before he found his victim, he was a skilled, aged hunter after all. An open pasture ripe with cattle would suffice for this evening, although he may have to eat quite a few to quench his hunger due to his long sleep cycles. Cycles that kept him safe, and kept the denizens of the village afraid.
With no further thought, he rose up high and swelled his chest and arms, then dove. He dove from the height of the cathedral, gaining speed very quick. This would leave no room for escape as well as ensuring a killing blow. And, as he skewered the walking beef with his clawed feet, he was indeed proven right. The animal felt nothing as he lanced and carried it away. He carried it to his usual spot on the mountain peaks, a place with a view. It was a perfect vantage point to strike over the entire land, which he would surely have to do to survive the next rest.
As he picked the carcass clean, he couldn't help but feel sorrowful...and alone. And that was simply due to the fact that the monstrous beast was, he was the last of his kind. He slept in long turns to protect himself, he prayed on cattle and animals to not threaten or scare any of the villagers. He had had enough slaughter in the previous centuries that he grew weary of war and battle, yet his kind was too blind to see their error. They all perished, slowly but inevitably. This gargoyle, the last, had only been lucky as to not be slain or captured during sleep, and he wasn't going to take any chances. His luck had run out though.
A sharp pain seared through the once stone beasts left wing, pinning it to the ground. He thrashed back and was nearly blinded by the amount of light filling the area. Torches. Held by the armed men from the village below, whom had watched and waited. They had learned his patterns of sleep and slaughter, all the while the beast thinking himself clever and benevolent. Yet, they knew not his reason for only taking the cattle, they had forgotten the fear but had kept the hatred. A hate that fueled their attack now as more spears and bolas fell upon the enormous creature, but these things would only slow it. Only the sun could solidify its downfall, ending its prolonged tyranny.
The gargoyle splintered their weapons and traps as it attempted escape but reality was sinking in, his wing was damaged. With the first blow crippling him, he would have no choice but to try and cover ground on foot. The humans were blocking the pass however, leaving only one option, flightless or not. The beast roared, so deep it trembled the ground and the men's nerves, and then it dove off the cliff face, bolas and spears following his extreme maneuver. As he leapt, he tucked his wings back, keeping them protected from the imminent impact to come. Very shortly, the one-winged demon slammed against a shelf on the rock face, sending him into a tumble crashing through brush and boulders alike.
Finally, the damaging dive had ended, leaving the monster bruised and battered but not broken. He knew they wouldn't be far behind, and his trail was not hard to see. Slowly, he began to trot towards the town, hoping to cut straight through and make it to the coast. If he could get to the water, he could use the darkness and waves to hide. Unfortunately, it had been a long time since he had traveled by land and he was losing valuable time. At the rate he was going, the sun would be up before he made it to the coast. He picked up the pace, flapping his wings to the best of their extent hoping they would boost his speed.
As he neared the town he could see movement, men darting back and forth amongst the shadows. More torches and the gleams of weapons could be seen now and again, which did not settle his nerves any more. Just as this fact presented itself, the cavalry that had surprised him were gaining. He was the last of his kind and yet he swore not to harm any more of them, no more battle. So, he would keep moving, keep flying, whatever it took to survive and prove that he was better than a monster. He halted for a moment and gathered his thoughts and strength. Then, he pulled the remaining spear from his wing, gritting his large teeth tightly. He worked the wings back and forth for a few seconds as he began to run, allowing the wings to gain some wind under them. Then, he began his ascent, albeit painful and troublesome.
He approached the town quickly but his altitude was faltering. He was not high enough nor was he staying stable and the buildings were approaching fast. With one last flap, the worn beast had nearly scathed the tops of the village homes but he would not be able to clear the church or evade it. He did not have enough time so he simply braced and grappled into the side of the building, scarring the outside of it with his claws. He gripped the building hard, hopping to and from ledges and statues alike to gain ground. The next statue he grabbed did not sustain his build though, and the two careened toward the ground. They both slammed into the ground with the force of tidal wave but only one of them shattered. The other was stunned.
The shadows did their best to protect him but the light was seeking him out, scattering the darkness in swathes. The beast knew that the light approached but he was so tired now. The one meal he secured was only enough for this excursion, anything beyond this point would be a miracle. His muscles were weak but lifted the brute up once again, allowing him to inspect his surroundings. He was in the cemetery, the place where they put the remains of their dead. He had always admired the idea of having a place to visit your deceased kin, that would be a fitting place for the last gargoyle.
Looking over the area, the beast noticed the destroyed statue, and something else. Closer he crept as the shadows hid the scene from him, and they did so on purpose. They wished to hide the accident before him, the body of a Priestess from the chapel. Crushed in his fall beneath the weeping statue. She was an innocent and he had caused her demise, accident or not. His wings sagged and his knees faltered as he stared in horror. Of all the deaths he had caused, this was the worst. Caused by a monster attempting to escape its well deserved and overdue fate. He slumped to the ground as his muscles tensed and strained with a rage of confusion and anguish. No more running. No more fighting. Just one more rest.
It took the villagers little time to find the beast and his victim, her body exposed as the debris had been displaced by the beast. But the scene called out differently to the war driven men, they saw a murder. They saw exactly what they had always seen from these creatures and this time they would have their vengeance. From within their ranks, a hooded character emerged. It approached the beast slowly but without hesitation. From within their robes they pulled out a small box with a simple design to it. However, upon opening the box, rays of light began to flood the area. The hooded person withdrew a pendant emitting an immense amount of light, making the beast cringe as it sealed him inside of his now forming stone tomb. The villagers cheered as the demon writhed and howled as the light encased his body in solid stone.
Soon, there was no light, there was no sound, there was nothing. The beast was entombed in stone for the last time, sealing his fate...And he was okay with that. He was ready to dream with no worry of awakening. He would no longer be hunted or hated, just simply a memory of what once was. He could not see as the pendant was placed upon his neck, making sure he would never break free from his stone prison. He could not hear as the decided what to do with his body. He could not feel as they carried him to the cliff side and tossed his statuesque frame into the deep, cold waters. There was simply nothing.
Somehow...some way...the beast could see. It seemed only moments but he could nonetheless see. What he saw though was worse than dreams though, it was the darkness of the ocean. He was not sure how he could see but something had changed. The pendants light no longer hurt his eyes but there it still rested around his monstrous body, as did the chains they wrapped around him. Now, it was just him and his thoughts. He could not move yet he could see and slightly hear. So, he would watch and he would reflect upon his life because that was all he could do.
He watched as the ocean life became acclimated to his presence. Some creatures visited thanks to his light, others due to his bodies unique shape, and others to hunt on the ones who were simply curious. He watched as little fish were eaten by bigger fish, and bigger fish were eaten by even larger creatures. Yet, as time went on, he saw the larger predators wither and die, and he saw as the body would fall upon the sand covered floor and become food and shelter for the little ones. He even saw a little fish outsmart a larger fish by luring it into a deadly coral reef.
He began to reflect on these things, comparing these events to ones in his own life. At one point, he was the biggest fish preying on the large and small. But then, he was lured and trapped by the smaller fish. Ironic that as elaborate and complicated as he thought things to be, they were very simple. He had been a necessary evil at one point but then also a point of triumph for the little fish, the men of his time. Now, he was just a retreat and wonderment for the little fish. He took solace in being useful and entertaining for the marine life around him.
Time passed. The waves crashed, the ocean floor changed, and his familiar aquatic visitors came and went. He grew saddened by the loss of so many unique and innocent creatures due to numerous events all the while he was forced to watch and wait. He wondered when it would end. The water had been receding in the recent years, or decades, maybe centuries. He wasn't sure yet he was sure things were changing. He could feel the stone shell shrinking or dissipating, they were withering just as the waters were.
As the waters began to pull and return from where he rested, he too was moved by the currents. On one particular night, during a raging storm, he was sucked out into the deeper waters, then hurled against the very cliff he was thrown from. The stone shattered around him, leaving him tattered and wet atop the cold rocks on the edge of the sea. He lay there, staring up at the sky fearing to move. He feared that, even though he was free, his body was broken.
Dawn broke upon his body and he winced as rays touched his skin. It was in this moment he realized everything was different. No tightness of his body, no blinded sight, and no more sleep. He was awake and anew. A voice shuddered him fully into consciousness as he attempted to understand what was happening. "Sir! Are you hurt!?" A woman's voice yelled. The beast jolted up and looked around for the man she spoke of. As his eyes adjusted to the light he could see a familiar attire, one a Priestess would wear.
"Quickly! Before you catch a death of cold!" She beckoned him from atop a stairway made from stones leading down to the water's edge. He extended a hand...not a claw. He began to shiver as his new body became accustomed to cold and sunshine, to the ocean air and every other sense he had forgotten. He felt lighter too and smaller, nearly the same size as the Priestess. As he glanced down as his new feet he caught a reflection in a pool of water, a human reflection.
A presence startled his study of the unfamiliar face in the puddle. The Priestess held out a cloak and placed it upon his shoulders, wrapping him tightly in it. "Come now, let me take care of you," she said softly. "You look as if you have suffered enough." The once bestial eyes filled with tears. Tears of gratitude and happiness, tears for the fact that he did not deserve this body and life. Tears, that he would make the most of his new life. He was once cursed, now blessed. And he could rest easy...because all of the monsters were gone.