28 Usurpation and Governorship

Silence descended upon the bloodied square, the crisp morning air thick with the metallic tang of death. 


Debris from broken ice still rolling made its final noise

Blightbringer corpses, avian forms crumpled amidst shattered ice sculptures, littered the ground. 

Children cowered behind trembling mothers, their terrified cries attempted to be contained. 

In the center, bathed in the crimson haze of dawn, stood Cole, the Feather Blade held negligently in his hand, its obsidian edge dripping blood.

What caught Lyra by surprise though, was Cole's proceeding shift of behavior.

"Alright, you screeching feather bags," he rasped with a voice of a gravelly sneer that sent shivers down the survivors' spines. 

"Listen up, or next time, I won't bother with the fancy ice show!"

Lyra, the beautiful murderer, stood behind him, her icy gaze sweeping over the crowd. Though she hadn't spoken, her frost-laced fingers curled around the hilt of her sword, a silent threat echoing in the air.

Cole took a menacing step forward, his eyes, once vacant slates, now gleamed with a predatory hunger. "One. You make me your ruler. Every word I spit is your law, understood?"

Murmurs, frantic and panicked, rippled through the crowd. 

A few bolder Blightbringers, warriors with soot-stained feathers and venomous gazes, dared to meet his eyes. But under the cold-blooded glint of Cole's thinning eyes of ecstasy, they literally chickened out.

"Two," Cole continued, his voice dripping with malice. "The chief's house is mine. He's already feasting with the worms, thanks to Miss Icy over here. Consider it payback, considering you were the ones who dared foolishly attack us."

Lyra remained silent, her face an unreadable mask.

"And lastly," Cole's voice hardened, a finality to his tone that chilled the remaining Blightbringers to the core as he circularly waved his index finger.

"No running. Try to feather-foot it out of here, and you'll join your friends in the frozen garden. Got it?" He smiled gently as he ended his sentence, the shiny vibes he was portraying betrayed the words he was sputtering by quite a margin.

A terrified silence answered him. 

Even the children had stopped crying, their wide eyes reflecting the horror painted across their mothers' faces.

With a sardonic grin, Cole tossed the Feather Blade to the ground, its red end glinting eerily in the sunlight. 

"Good choice." He gestured towards a young Blightbringer, barely more than a fledgling, his feathers still tinged with down. 

"You there, the one with the promising squawk in his throat. Lead me to the chief's burrow. I'm hungry."

Cole called forth a Blightbringer who seemed more capable and could speak the human tongue.

The bird flinched, then scurried forward, the crowd parting like a terrified wave before him. Lyra followed behind, her steps silent as fallen snow, her eyes never leaving Cole's back.

The chief's house, nestled at the furthest end of the village, was indeed larger, its clay walls lacked any aesthetic sights. Inside, however, only straw litter and a cold hearth greeted them.

"Sigh," Cole grumbled, throwing himself onto the straw in a display of casual insolence. 

"Where's the grub? You featherbrained lot expect a king to live on air?"

The Blightbringers scurried, fetching meager rations of dried fruit and slit fish.

Cole devoured the food with unrefined hunger, his eyes flicking around the room, assessing, calculating.

Lyra perched on an ice stool she cast, her silence quite the contrast to Cole's boisterous presence.

'What is up with him…?'

She questioned inwardly, but couldn't waste any time thinking over it.

The hours that followed unfolded in a rough rhythm.

The village, under Cole's ruthless command, began to clean up the carnage. 

Fear, not resentment, fueled their actions. Their chieftain, their warriors, lay frozen and shattered.

As dusk painted the sky in somber hues, the Blightbringers huddled in the houses Cole designated for their use. 

Only the crackling fire in the chief's house, where Cole now sprawled indolently, offered a semblance of warmth in the chilling silence.

When sleep finally claimed him, Lyra remained vigilant, scanning outside to see if the Blightbringers would dare make a move during their sleep.

Albeit, nothing happened, and she soon switched guarding positions with Cole to get some rest herself.


Chirp, chirp.

Ironically enough, normal birds sang the morning's early call.

Morning found them in a tense truce. 

Cole, refreshed and seemingly less volatile, called for a gathering. The surviving Blightbringer warriors, stripped of their weapons, stood before him, eyes filled with a mix of defiance and resignation.

"Listen up, crows," Cole barked so everyone in the small town could hear, his voice devoid of its earlier sneer, though the glint in his eyes remained untamed. 

"Let's get something straight. Your old ways, the squabbling, the pointless wars, they end now," Cole finished, his voice ringing through the hushed square. 

"This isn't about feathering my nest – although a decent stockpile of food and shiny trinkets wouldn't go amiss." He shot a suggestive glance at a Blightbringer elder clutching a leather pouch to his chest, earning a nervous shudder.

"This is about survival," Cole continued, pacing before the assembled Blightbringers.

"You lot might be able to cough up some nasty toxins and peck with a decent aim, but against the real threats lurking in these woods of the Skyleaves, you're as fragile as eggshells. And trust me, there are things out there that make these ice sculptures look like bedtime stories."

'What is he talking about…? Like he's so experienced himself.' Lyra wondered to herself, albeit, seeing how it was working so well, she kept quiet.

He swept his arm across the village, encompassing the surrounding forest. 

"This place crawls with predators, with creatures hungry for your flesh and your souls, and we humans are the ones that most need your corpses, your Feather Blades!

"Alone, you're just feathers in the wind. But together…" he paused, letting the tension build, "together, we might create a sense of safety. You become my soldiers, my claws and piercing nails, and I…"

He leaned in, his gaze cold as ice with his blue-white eyes, "I become your shield and the destructor of anyone and anything that dares to hurt you all." He declared, breathing heavily after finishing the speech.

A croaking murmur rippled through the crowd. 

Some Blightbringers, fueled by desperation and fear, met his gaze with grudging acceptance. Others still harbored defiance, their feathers bristling beneath their leathery skin.

Lyra, ever the silent observer, stood behind Cole, her icy presence a constant reminder of the swift and brutal end their defiance could bring.

"So," Cole rasped, his voice dropping to a dangerous whisper. "Who's with me? Who wants to live to see another sunrise?"

The silence stretched, and then a lone warrior stepped forward, his head held high, feathers bristling. 

"Kraaww– I will fight for you and town!" He declared, his voice rough and guttural.

A ripple of approval surged through the crowd. 

Cole grinned, a feral gleam in his eyes. "Now that's the spirit, feather-brain! Show me your bite, not your squawk. I respect a warrior who knows the price of freedom." He nodded his head approvingly.

He turned to the rest of the Blightbringers, his voice booming. "Anyone else wants to play soldier? Or would you rather continue shuffling off this mortal coil under prettier circumstances?"

The tension hung thick in the air, fear warring with newfound resolve in the Blightbringers' eyes. One by one, feathers ruffled, warriors, men, wives, and children stepped forward, their eyes locking with Cole's. 

He met their gazes unflinchingly, his grin widening as more and more accepted his offer.

By the time the last rays of sunlight dipped below the horizon, a fragile pact had been forged.

For the first time, now, Cole the Tyrant stood at the head of a makeshift army, a band of desperate Blightbringers clinging to the hope of survival under his volatile leadership. 

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