Doom comes for you in your seventh year, wraps you in flaming shackles and brands you monstrous.

Your screams fall on ears too deafened by bloodlust to hear you. Doom sears skin from flesh and flesh from bone, forging you a mask from your own true face. Fire burns the innocence from your eyes and cuts you in half. In the mirror, one side is hideous, but the other side looks like your brother.

You build walls and learn to hate. You drown yourself with tears and wine. You bury yourself in anger, and bury others in the dry cold earth. In your dreams, the ones you kill all look like your brother too. You pass judgment with cruel words and crueler steel, and your black steed is named for the unknown and for the god of death you are too well acquainted with. Surrounded by beautiful liars, you carry a shield of ugliness and honesty.

You open your arms to doom and walk right in.

Doom comes for you in the guise of the healer, the life-giver.

Her bright hair mingles in the wind like ruffled feathers, and her eyes are the blinding blue of a winter sky. She reaches for you with delicate hands, and her touch sends shudders through your body and shatters your soul. She is everything you will never be. She is porcelain and steel, fragile and strong, tender and ferocious. You are stone, cold and hard, full of cracks.

Standing by a yawning precipice, she is fearless in her terror, her empty eyes full of screaming rage. She is like you then, and by some miracle you take some of her as well. Your gentle murderer's hands kiss at the blood spilling from her fierce, innocent lips.

She kneels for the king, bowed and bent but never broken. Stripped naked by unworthy hands, her blood profanes the royal floor, and that is harder judgment than you could ever give. It is so much more than enough that you scream out for an end, and hate yourself for having stood by for so long.

You grant her as much comfort as you can, wrap her bleeding body in your white cloak, and the stains on that cloak are a greater mercy than you deserve.

In the end, you turn your back on life and walk away.

Doom comes for you in the guise of the destroyer, the bringer of death.

Death is sister to life, and these two are sisters as well. This bird sings no sweet songs, but screeches vengeance to the skies. You look into her blazing gray eyes and see a thousand torments there, for herself and for her enemies. She looks enough like you to have been your daughter, and the hate in her eyes is yours as well. Her brands are on her soul, not her face, but she too has scars and walls and devouring darkness.

You ride death all the way home, but there is no home for her, only a smoking ruin. Her home dies in from of her, as yours died so long ago. She rails and wails against you, and you scream harsh truths back, your words falling like poisoned arrows, so much more painful than her meager fists.

You join out of desperation, the little warrior and the great one. She means nothing to you, nothing but the sister of a girl whose eyes were blue as a winter sky, nothing but an angry frightened child like you. You have brought only pain and suffering to her, but there are others who have brought worse. So you fight side-by-side for a time. At night, she whispers words to the empty sky, an ugly vengeful prayer. She hesitates a long time, but her lips still form your name.

This time when you scream out for an end it is your own. She looks at you, and her eyes are pits of agony. She is death walking, and she refuses you any mercy.

Death turns her back on you, and walks away.

When you lie by the roadside, burning with pain like fire, the quiet man comes to you and lifts doom from your shoulders.

He moves with silent footsteps, though he is tall and strong. He kneels beside you, his movements slow and steady. You can barely see him, blurry as your sight is from agony and tears.

He reaches forward, his hand grazing your cheek, as gentle as your little bird was. His eyes are like mirrors, reflecting your deep, raw sadness back at you, only a thousand times softer. There is no anger in those eyes.

The quiet man crouches beside you, opens his arms to you, and holds you there.