Chapter 7

Atonement

Her bag was thumping against her thigh as she ran at top speed through the streets to get to her family's compound. The sun was beginning to set and everyone was either at the bazaar eating at one of the many stalls and restaurants or in their home eating with their families. The speed that Avian was going would have been impossible if it hadn't been dinner time and the streets were clear.

Her heart was racing and her thoughts were like a tornado as she assessed the best way to confront and persuade her father out of continuing the coup d'état. I'll talk to him immediately after dinner. He always goes to his office to 'work on paperwork', so I'll be able to corner him there. Satisfied with her plan, she snapped back to focusing on her surroundings as she ran up to the path leading to her home.

That's strange. The lights are usually on by now. Maybe they're saving the electricity since they're in another part of the house? Avian thought as she slowed her gait into a walk up the path. When she reached the door, with a feeling of suspicion she noted that the door was cracked open. After a brief examination, she noted that there wasn't any forced entry, but continued cautiously into the house.

It was dead silent. The rooms were dark from the fading light, but Avian could make out the basics of the room layout. She meandered towards the doors that lead to the dining room. Right before she reached the door however, her foot hit something solid and she tripped on to the floor heavily. Grunting, she hauled herself into a sitting position and glanced curiously at what tripped her. All she could see in the dim light of the hall was a large lump, so to abate her interest; she opened the doors to the dining room so that the light from the windows could shine through and hopefully illuminate what she had stumbled on.

As the light slowly broke through the crack in the door as she opened it, black hair, dull, lifeless grey eyes, and a mouth shaped into a grotesque imitation of a scream was revealed to Avian's unprepared and horrified eyes. There were hundreds of gashes and punctures all over his body that revealed the agony that he must have gone through before death took mercy and took him away.

"NO! Felix!" She cried as she scrambled to his body. She shook him desperately trying to revive some kind of life, but to no avail. Panicked, Avian shot to her feet and entered the dining room, the bodies of a few of her aunts and uncles lay in various places in the room, all with the horrifying stab wounds that were afflicted on her brother. Tears running down her face, she checked every room on the first floor and found all of her aunts, uncles, cousins, and her sister laying dead in the same fashion.

Her eyes bulging in shock and horror and her breath quick with panic, Avian made her way slowly up the stairs to look for her father's body. The only one she hadn't found yet. The house was silent except for the sounds of the wind starting to kick up outside. As she inched up the stairs slowly, Avian's heart began to beat as if it'd pop out of her chest. Anxiety was overwhelming her and she had to pause for a moment to lean against the old banister to regain her breath.

At the top, Avian found an empty hall, devoid of bodies, dead or alive. Cautiously, she crept down the hall, finding nothing as she reached the end where the window overlooking the dead garden and the broken old grandfather clock rested. The door to her room there was closed. Pausing, Avian leaned her ear against the door attempting to get a hint of whether or not someone was in the room.

There were no sounds. It was dead silent except for her labored breathing and the almost audible pounding of her heart. Giving a heave of slight relief, she turned her back to the door and began to walk back down the hall when suddenly, what felt like the force of a pile of stones hit her back and sent her to the floor in front of the old clock. The wind was knocked out of her, and her wheezing was taking up the silence in the hall. Desperately, she glanced up at what hit her, and was met by the sneering face of Acerbus Castitalis.

"I knew that you'd eventually return to your worthless family, so I sent the soldiers home and waited for you, so I'd get the opportunity to finish you off myself." He smirked.

"W-Why-" Avian tried to choke out.

"Oh, don't act so innocent." Acerbus tutted. "Did you really think we wouldn't be keeping a close eye on your family? After all, you've been a threat for centuries now, isn't that right, you little rat?"

Seeing her astounded face, he continued "That's right. I knew you were there at the council meeting. Did you think I wouldn't be able to see your gaping face right through the window as I walked around the room? I also know you snuck in to the archives. Quite pathetic if I do say so myself. Your tear marks on the pages of the files you read left quite the easy trail."

Avian's crumpled form on the floor only made Acerbus smile more as he pulled out a traditional, ornamental sword. "Now, on to the real business. We can't have you and the Agito running around and telling everyone about the bomb or starting a coup d'état, now can we?"

The delight on his face at her fear made Avian nauseous and she curled in more on herself.

"Well, I suppose I should get this over with. I don't want to be too late to dinner." Acerbus sighed casually.

He took the sword and lazily thrust it into her abdomen first, before delighting in her desperate, agonized gasps.

"I stabbed your stomach first, so if the blood loss doesn't kill you first, the stomach acid eating away at your organs will." He explained to her before starting to continually gash and stab her. Every cut felt like a strike of lighting and soon, Avian began to grow too dizzy from the loss of blood to make any sound.

Unsatisfied, Acerbus sheathed the sword and put it on his belt and glared down at her. "Now you're just boring me. I suppose I've gotten enough entertainment for today though…" Heaving an annoyed sounding sigh, he turned to her beaten body and paused for a brief moment before giving a powerful kick to her stomach that slammed her into the clock behind her. With a grunt of distaste, Acerbus headed down the hall and disappeared down the steps.

Through the thick haze of pain and dizziness that accompanied her body, Avian heard the front door slam, signaling Acerbus' departure. She opened her eyes slightly through the dizziness and finally peered into her quiet room. There, on the floor in a puddle of blood, was her father. Gasping, and coughing up splatters of blood, Avian slowly, agonizingly pushed herself in to a sitting position and slumped heavily against the clock. There was a slight click when she had fallen against the clock, and Avian thought with dry humor Even right before death and I still managed to damage something. Father was right. I'm a trouble magnet.

She slowly turned her gaze to the floor length window that looked out on the garden and thought to herself as she slowly sputtered her last breaths. Maybe I'll get to see Mother now…Father will be so much happier now that they'll be together again. As she examined the dead flower beds her last thought was. I'm…glad I could see her…flower beds one…last…time… As her last breath faded away, a new sound began to fill the silent house. The old grandfather clock had begun to tick.

Fin