Metal breaks skin and hot blood bursts onto the back of his pale hands, under his fingernails and across his exposed face. His grip on the handle of his ax tightens and he screams again, but this time it is a battle cry. He doesn’t just want this blood, but oh, it’s a start. It’s one hell of a start. His darkened eyes are wide and shining like steel, and he grins at the lovely contrast of red on white.
She’s thrown off, unbalanced, and in pain. The pain is so deep in her eyes and in her face that Gregor forgets quickly where he is. His boots are damp with rain and the soggy trees of the forest wall him in and Carson is in pain and Gregor’s ax is covered in blood, but he doesn’t stop this time, because he doesn’t want to. He loves it. He supposes he always did, but regular people don’t like killing and they don’t like blood.
Gregor likes blood. He loves it.
He’s snapped back to the hellish arena when a blade rips through his arm, down onto his collarbone and across his torso. He finds he can expel the pain if he just howls, so he does. He sucks in a deep breath, eyes blazed with hunger and bloodlust. He throws back his head and lets the cool air fill him up before charging.
His swing digs in deep and cuts her… the witch, the hag, the devil herself… cuts her from shoulder to hip, and cuts her deep. He laughs and laughs and lunges again but his boot moves, slips and he tumbles.
Something deep inside his leg snaps and no howl or cry will relieve it. He’s down at her feet and his arm won’t lift him and his leg won’t hold him and suddenly he feels less like a hunter and more like a wounded dog. He hacks at her legs but his gimp arm can’t seem to break the leather of her boots.
Even deeper than the snap of his bone, there’s a snap somewhere deep inside him and he can’t remember where he is or who he hates or who he’s hacking at. A raw, indescribable hatred fills him, only heated by a flaming passion, and he cries out. He forms words he didn’t know he had in him.
“Why wasn’t it ever me!?” he cries. He pounds the snow with his good arm, though he can hardly feel it at all. Red outlines his bad arm and his torso in the snow and he still smiles maybe but he doesn’t know. “You never tried harder to love me!”
He’s forgotten who he’s talking to, and he’s forgotten why he ever wanted their love, but the Windeheards were so real and so warm and so different and he wanted them. He wanted all of them. He wanted to plant himself deep within them and grow and one day be one of them.
If he couldn’t, there was no reason for them to be at all.
She doesn’t miss once. None of the blows are fatal, but they all hit and wound, and wound deep. Blood flows and he keeps screaming and the sound makes her ears ring, somehow merging with the pain radiating from her shoulder, that has not stopped or even diminished.
Her hatred is stronger, though. It boils and it burns and it keeps her going because the mere idea of letting him walk away alive fills her with the worst kind of rage, rage that has been piling up over the past two years, made it all the worse because she had never allowed it an outlet. Rage that started with grief over Carson and disbelief and a sense of betrayal, that only grew when she was robbed of the justice she deserved, and that kept growing and growing with every nightmare, every mention of his name, every memory of Carson that was now forever tainted by him. Even with the Quarter Quell, because it should have been him there and nobody else.
She had continued to live her life as well as she could, and she had more or less managed, but the rage was always there and his shadow was always there and that is why she cannot let him go. He has taken too much from her. Too much.
This time, when his axe hits her, she doesn’t scream, and the pain doesn’t feel as strong as the first time. When the signal reaches her brain it has dulled and maybe it’s wrong to say it doesn’t feel as strong, but it certainly doesn’t feel as sharp. Blood pours out of her, though, and when he prepares to swing again she’s scared, she’s just as scared as she had been for that horrible second during the parade, when he’d grabbed her hand out of nowhere. She’d been scared then because she didn’t know what he would do, what he could do; she’s scared now because she knows that one more blow will mean her death.
She’s frozen with fear, but the axe never strikes.
He falls, he falls to the ground and thrashes around and screams and tries to move and tries to swing his axe at her once more, but he is wounded and he can’t so he keeps screaming, and his howls mix with her pain once more.
Breathing is immensely difficult now, and she stands there, having the sensation of being in a sort of limbo, unable to move. Her sword is in her hand, but she’s in pain and almost shaking. His furious, desperate cries pierce the cold, silent air.
“Why wasn’t it ever me?! You never tried harder to love me!”
She doesn’t understand and she doesn’t try to. She had never tried to. She had never asked him why because she didn’t need to know why, she didn’t want to know why, she just wanted him gone and dead and gone. She seems to wake from her trance and her breathing becomes shallow and rapid and she can feel her pulse quickening and the blood spilling out faster from her wounds but the moment she brings the sword down on his neck she stops feeling any of it.
The cut is deep, but not deep enough, because she’s weakened and the sword is not strong enough and because of so many different things, and he keeps screaming even as blood pours out of the wound. She brings the sword down a second time, and drops of blood spray and fly in every possible direction. His cries are feebler now, but he is still alive and he squirms and she feels dizzy but she doesn’t know what she feels.
A third time, with more strength, and also with more pain.
The screaming stops, and his head leaves a trail of blood on the snow as it rolls away from his body.