I suppose that it is only fitting that all that anyone will
ever find of me is ashes. My life was nothing but a consuming flame; all I have
left is destruction and regret- ashes. And from the realm that I am trapped in,
there is to be no second chance.
I am not, as I may seem to be from what I have
said, dead. I am not a ghost, though I lack life like one. Even a ghost has
the ability to see those whose lives were entwined with theirs, to have some
sense of the world they once belonged to, even if they cannot truly be part
of that world. I do not have that. I have lost everything, the promised price
for failure. It was a terrible promise; one that I now wish I never had made
in a momentary lust for power, but a promise all the same. So I exist, sightless,
formless, in an empty world without even a glimmer of hope. I had been told,
by one much wiser than myself, that a fate worse than death exists. I scoffed
at the one who said it- I could not understand how anything could be worse than
death. I understand them now, though I truly wish I did not.
The complete lack of my senses is not the worst
part of this existence. That alone could drive one to insanity, but I would
gladly take that fate over mine. My sanity was lost long ago. And, for one such
as I who has perpetrated such horrors as I have, an even worse punishment exists.
When one has fallen in this way, they are overcome by a blindness of sorts;
they do not realize what they have become until it is too late. And so I must
live, if this can truly be called living, with visions from a time when I was
Before I was brought to this miserable plane
of existence, I was a veritable monster. I spared no one in my quest for power.
Friends and foes alike fell by my sword and by my laws. I would have power,
no matter what it took to obtain it, even if it meant making deals with some
unsavory characters or disposing of a few challengers. In order to retain the
remaining shreds of my sanity, I had embraced the blindness that is often the
result of following one's terrible ambitions. So, while the pleas of my enemies
fell on deaf ears, I could sleep soundly at night, free from any shreds of conscience
that I may have had - at least as long as they, those spirits of malice
incarnate, did not hound me. But that blissful blindness was torn away along
with everything else, leaving me nothing to block that awful knowledge of what
I am. I have been forced to look into the mirror of my soul, and I do not like
what I see.
Time after time, I relive scenes from the last
few months before I left that world, images of the destruction and pain caused
by my heartless ambition, my overwhelming greed, and my insatiable appetite
for revenge. I watch again, from outside myself, as I coldly dispose of enemies
who no longer wished to fight, who are unarmed, or who have turned their back
for a second. I try to turn away from myself, revolted by my own behavior, by
my own thoughts, but I cannot. These wisps of memory, of regret, are all I have-there
truly is nowhere I can hide. So I am forced back into the darkest regions of
my own mind, to watch anew within myself horrors that I had previously doubted
the existence of.
I watch myself as I stand outside the village,
commanding my army. The buildings have already been mostly ruined. Villagers
crouch behind whatever they can find, hoping to hide themselves. I cringe as
I hear myself give the order- burn everything. I can only watch, helpless, as
houses go up in flames, while that monster- myself! -laughs at the scene, until
nothing is left but ashes. My warriors ask what to do- I order them to destroy
anything that remains. I can only watch, helpless; I cannot change anything,
and I cannot separate myself from that monster.
How could I have done this?! And how can I change
anything?! I cannot... I cannot make anything right. I cannot escape this fate,
and even if I could return to that other world, I would be unable to restore
anything to the way it was before. I have gone too far; there is no return for
me, or for those who were unfortunate enough to get caught in the wake of my
My memories now turn to him, one of the
few brave enough to stand against me. Even at the edge of the Citadel, unarmed
and barely able to hold himself up, he defies me, refusing to let me win. I
try my hardest to force him off that edge, but to no avail. He is too heroic
for that; he will not give me the pleasure of defeating him. His last words
seem out of place- he is helpless, and has no chance of survival, but his words
are hopeful. "There is always hope. It may be hard to see, and you may have
to fight for it, but no matter what happens...no matter what happens..."
I step back, wondering what he means, removing myself for a moment, unconsciously,
as the cause of his demise. Then, he lets go of the side. I cringe as I watch
myself laughing at his downfall. But his words resonate with me now, in this
hopeless world in which I am trapped- "there is always hope." How can
there be hope here? It is impossible...but there is always hope! Hope
to make things right, hope to remake myself, hope to live again. But I have
to fight for it...I must escape this realm!
I can see a light. It is quite far off, but
it is a light, and it feels wonderful after being in darkness for so long. I
am not blind- I can see that light. I have form- my arms are starting to feel
tired. I try to move them, and realize that they are chained to a pillar of
stone, a pillar that I could not feel before. Despite the seemingly hopeless
situation, however, I regain even more of the hope I had lost in this realm.
As long as I am real, as long as I am truly alive, there is hope for escape!
I peer into the distance, trying to get a better view of the light. It is fitting,
that light of hope in my darkened world. I will have the chance to redeem myself!
The light grows brighter, as the bearer of that
light moves closer to me. The light is as bright as the rays of the sun, both
as beautiful and as deadly, shining forth from a sword. The sword is carried
by...him. How can he be alive? He fell off of the Citadel...and I was
responsible... Or was he nothing more than a ghost returned to finish his worldly
affairs? Had he returned simply to ensure that I would not? Would he come bearing
the justice that the sword is a symbol of? Or would he give the hope of redemption
symbolized by that shining light? I look to him, unable to speak- what could
I say to such an apparition?
He recognizes me, with a gasp of horror and
a look of disgust on his face. He raises his blazing sword, the symbol both
of redemption and justice, preparing to bring it down on me. All I can do is
watch as he makes his decision about my fate. Scenes from my past sprint through
my mind, though they are more pleasant this time, images from that past before
I had fallen. He holds the sword steady for a moment, as if he can see into
my mind, as if he can see the good in me that had been lost when they
arrived. His face is blank. Suddenly, he brings the sword down in one rapid
I remain for a second, mouth wide. He had not
brought his sword down upon me, but upon my chains. I am free to seek my redemption.
The darkness of that world in which I existed slowly fades away, though he does
not. He remains momentarily, partially translucent in the sunlight, and smiles
for the first time. There is always hope, Kass. But I must go, before my
sister forgets that, he says cheerfully as he vanishes. Perhaps he was no
ghost- how can a ghost give hope to his sister? And if he is alive, perhaps
my wrongs can be righted!
I am no longer strong, not as I was before I
fell. I can hardly stand, and walking is painful. But physical wounds can heal.
I will be able to make things right, to fix what I had so carelessly broken.
It will be difficult, but not impossible. I will return, and I will repay. Like
the phoenix of legend, I have been restored to life. With the second chance
I have been given, I will have the opportunity to be redeemed- to truly rise
again from ashes.
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|The Tale of Tadric's Time: Part Three|
He had his orders and was eager to be about
the business of what would no doubt be the most glorious moment of his career,
but his squire was still absent. No matter - Am'ae was out scouting on Tadric's
command, and would return shortly.