Silence, and the end of all things...
The world fell apart in silence, heralded only by dust spiraling in the pre-dawn light and the slow drip of candle wax on black marble. The flames’ feeble attempts at warmth were met from all sides by the apathetic eyes of twelve tombstone effigies, staring out in eternal suspicion and disapproval on their pedestals. Below, their living descendants became the vessels of their old grudges, bearing the festering wounds born of generations of mistrust, falsehood and a thinly-veiled lust for war. Liquid darkness puddled about their forms, and even as the sun’s rays began to warm the air of that first spring morning, the frozen silence held its breath. Waiting.
Then all was shattered with a crash. In the blink of an eye all twelve figures were on their feet, and their silent hatred blazed to life at last. Gone was all pretense at calm; powerful limbs rippled with tense muscle, teeth flashed behind drawn lips, hair stood on end, bristling as if struck by lightning. Hands began twitching in nervous anticipation, reaching for the hilts of hidden, bloodthirsty steel.
The opening of a door tipped the balance at the last possible second, and all trace of anger was banished, as fast as the snapping of an overdrawn bowstring. The twelve returned to their seats, and watched silently as the day’s unknown peacemaker stepped into the gloom. The entrant seemed oddly out of place in their midst – his face open, his step hesitant, like a child caught listening to a conversation he had no right to hear, and did not understand. As his eyes swept the room, he seemed unable to decide which of the figures he should be looking at. Twelve eyes looked back at him, predatorily bright in their languorous faces, momentarily distracted from one another by some greater, more pressing, threat.
And, for the second time, the world-breaking silence was interrupted, not by crash, but by a laugh. A strange, barking, mirthless laugh that echoed and bounced and rippled in the crystalline silence, ringing into memories and down, down, down into the impending oblivion. As one unit, the eyes of pack and prey swiveled to a single fixed point, staring with all the intensity and incredulity of those who cannot believe their eyes.
The world was breaking, and how the madman laughed.