Disclaimer: I don't own Fairy Tail or any characters created by Hiro Mashima.
Summary: Much of history was lost to time. The era before the First Dragon King Festival was shrouded in mystery. Those who lived through the Second Festival saw only the beast. The only one to survive both wars remembers the man behind the monster.
"I can only hope that God will judge us not as the monsters we have become but as the children we once were." -Anthony Neilson
Chapter 1: Cursed
The chains rattled with each crack of the whip. When a particularly forceful blow knocked him to the ground, his captors simply pulled the restraints taut again. Blow after excruciating blow, yet he refused to cry out. Crying out would mean giving in and giving in would mean they won. He wasn't going to give them that satisfaction. Besides it was only a matter of time before the whip master grew tired…Or he passed out he thought as his eyes threatened to close against his will.
Quiet whimpering reached his ears. He looked up to see his 'little brother' bound at the feet of another captor, tears streaming down his cheeks. Irritation welled up briefly before the whip landed over an already festering lash. He bit his lip as pain wracked his body.
"P-Please…Stop!" The little boy sobbed, "Big Brother…He did– "
"Shut up!" He hissed. And the whip master renewed his efforts. The little boy broke down again but didn't utter another word.
When he woke, he found himself alone, still chained between two saplings in an open field. A single guard stood watch a few feet away, but the whip master was nowhere to be seen.
"You got lucky, boy. Leader has decided to give you another chance to confess before he makes an example out of you." The guard sneered, "He figures a few days without food and water will loosen you tongue."
He pretended not to hear the man howl in laughter as his stomach sounded painfully in protest.
And so, it went: He woke up to beatings in the morning, forced to walk long hours behind the wagons during travel and whipped at the end of the day. If he got tired or tripped while walking, the slavers would simply let the wagon drag him along. At meals, they would chain him up in such a way that he could see everyone as they ate, while he was starved. A child tried to help him once and they beat her in front of him and everyone else. The message was clear: Help and you'll share her fate. Her body was left behind in a ditch.
He retreated inward, leaving his body in a state of semi-consciousness. Any kind of thought, especially the happy ones, only made his situation worse.
A week later, after realizing the brat wasn't going to die so easily, the head slaver had him chained to a crucifix and gathered all the slaves together.
"Tomorrow, we will reach the market grounds. I expect all of you to be on your best behavior for the auctions. As such I've prepared an incentive to make sure everything goes off without a hitch."
The oppressed crowd sat in silence.
"I have to ask…Don't we take care of you? Feed you? Cloth you? Give you shelter?" He paced in front of the group. No one dared to speak.
"So why would one of you steal from us?" His tone turned menacing, causing many to cringe in fear. He pulled out a dagger and tapped it against the boy's chest. The child barely registered the sharp weapon. "Two weeks ago, food started disappearing from our stores; food meant for the guards who work hard every day to ensure you're kept safe. The remnants of what was taken was found in one of your enclosures. This boy claims to be the sole perpetrator…but I can't shake the feeling that he had an accomplice."
"Bring me all the children that were in the same enclosure as this one." The guards grabbed in total 10 children including a trembling girl with stringy green hair, a boy with beady eyes and the captured boy's little brother.
"Now I know it wasn't any of the grown-ups, because the grown-ups understand their situation a lot better than you young'uns." He stroked the green haired girl as if she were an exotic animal. "I've given your friend a week to be honest with me, but he still refuses to be forthcoming. Won't you help me convince him?"
He knelt behind the girl and pulled at her cheeks, giving her a grotesque smile all while looking at the boy on the crucifix. "Please Big Brother, tell the kind man the truth." Winter green eyes glared defiantly back at the slaver.
The slaver returned the glare with indifference. This boy had given him nothing but trouble from the get-go. He and his self-proclaimed brother were sold to him weeks ago by villagers who were too terrified to go anywhere near the grey-haired boy. Something about him baring curse marks. While it was unusual for a child to have tattoos like the ones that decorated the boy's arms and face, they certainly weren't cursed. The only thing he'd call cursed were the brat's eyes and his defiant nature in general. He fought the guards tooth and nail when they first captured him and only settled down when they threatened to harm his brother. Despite his predicament, he walked with his head held up instead of bowed over like the others and sat as if he were simply biding his time. He didn't cry or scream like the other children, even when beaten.
The boy wasn't the thief, that much was obvious. He only ever ate enough to get him through the day. Every meal he'd take a few bites of his food, then give the rest to his brother or one of the other children. Yet when they found the evidence, he was the one who spoke up, without hesitation and with that glare. Always that defiant glare. Even a week of starvation had done nothing to temper the intensity. This brat really was too much trouble.
"Kill the brother." He ordered.
"TEME! I told you! I did it and I acted alone!" The boy struggled against his restraints, terror entering his voice for the first time. "Let had nothing to do with it! Let him go, you bastard—!"
The leader backhanded him, momentarily stunning the boy. Seizing a fistful of charcoal hair, He brought his face within an inch of the boy's.
"Let see how that attitude holds up without a tongue." He nodded to the nearby guards. One pinned his head to the crucifix with one arm and stopped him from thrashing about with the other. Another guard wrestled the boy's jaw open while the leader held the dagger over a torch fire.
"Oh," he said as an afterthought, "Maybe I'll gauge out an eye as well."
The brother, Let, sat frozen in fear as the guards surrounded him, pushing the other children aside. All he wanted was to take care of his big brother the way the older boy took care of him. His brother pretended to be tough, but sometimes he took it way too far. Two weeks ago, he collapsed when he thought no one was looking. But Let saw. He saw how much pain his brother was in and it was all because he gave his meager meals to others. He hated seeing his brother in pain, so he took a risk. He didn't think the guards would miss any of the food he snagged especially since it was already starting to rot. But he screwed up and they were both paying the price!
"Argh!" the guard let his fingers get too close and the grey-haired monster bit him hard. The boy used the bought time to yell.
"Don't just sit there! Run, you idiot!"
Several things happened at once: Let unfroze. A dagger embedded itself in the grey-haired boy's chest. And a deafening roar pierced the air.
"Secure the merchandise!" The leader shouted futilely. Guards and slaves alike were scattering in all directions. He clicked his tongue in frustration. Things were falling apart. At least he'd gotten rid of the stubborn pest. He turned and froze. The troublemaker's brother was trying to rescue him.
The rest of the world was muted. All he could hear was the sound of his heart beating slower and slower. He saw the hilt sticking out but wondered why he couldn't feel any pain. There should be pain. His thoughts were jumbled together. It was getting harder to breath. Where did this dagger come from—Oh…yeah, that bastard threw it at him when he told his brother to run. He tried to lift his head. Things were getting fuzzy. Someone short was running to him. It took his foggy brain all of two seconds to realize who it was.
"Get out of here," his thoughts cleared instantly. "Forget about me!"
"No," Let cried, yanking at the chains restraining his brother. He had to get him out of here. He was so engrossed in his task he didn't see the immediate danger. But his brother did.
"Behind you!" Let turned to see the leader towering above them. Let futilely reached for the dagger in his brother's chest.
"Look at what you two cost me!" The slaver brought his sword down on the boys. Let cringed and clung to his brother.
The last thing they saw was a searing light from above as dragon fire decimated the forest around them.
To be continued…
A/N: So here's the first chapter of my first ever Fairy Tail fanfic. I've been working on this on and off since the Fairy Tail manga ended. The reason I'm posting it now is (SPOILER) because the newest episode of Fairy Tail finally debuted my favorite character, Acnologia, in his human form.
I didn't name him in this chapter or the summary, but this story is my take on Acnologia's untold past. It annoyed me to no end when Mashima wasn't allowed to delve more into his character or the mystery of what happened 400 years ago (I blame the editors), so I'm doing it for him. Apologies for the first chapter being really dark. Do you ever get that one scene in your head that never goes away until you write it? That's what this was, and it has a basis. Judging from what we know, 400 years ago was a crappy time to be growing up in Ishgar. I promise it gets better.
If you're coming from my One Piece stories, I'm still working on them, I promise. Fall isn't really the best time to be writing stories, since I work at a Halloween store. With Halloween over and no scholarly obligations till January, I'll try to update one or both of them soon. For now I'm going to bed; my brain is yelling at me to sleep. Why is it words only come in the wee hours of the morning?