I was an eagle, beating my powerful wings to move above a dense forest. I looked down at it and its inhabitants, alive and noisy. The trees reached up with branches as if to scratch the sky itself. Birds flew from branch to branch, calling energetically to each other. Everything seemed normal. Happy.
Suddenly I was pulled down into my own body. My gaze had focussed on an imaginary point straight ahead. The wind touched my skin, ruffled my hair. It spoke with a whisper, an urging encouragement. Then the whisper increased to a flowing stream of echoes, moving around me with wings of air, desperately calling out to me. Kira… Kira…
Heart pounding, I ran through the forest, and with an agility I didn’t possess when I was awake, leaped across a fallen branch and continued running on. Almost there, almost… You can do it, I urged myself, pushing toward something I didn’t know.
The forest, suddenly and strangely, became quiet around me, as if she sent away all her inhabitants somewhere else, as if she was a mother and understood that the lonely man charging forward was holding the key to a door which, if opened, would lead only to destruction. Her wish was to save her children from its deathly grasp.
Yet that lonely man had taken the risk, had known that the exact thing could end his life in a blink of an eye. Thus, she remained quiet and gave the only thing she could: peace.
I had no time to think about such matters though, this was my only chance – and this time, I would succeed. I knew I would. I had to.
But alas, my fate was of a different kind. My lungs were burning and every cell in my body screamed for a gulp of air, yet I continued running. A large oak came into view, its branches pointing like accusing fingers. It occupied most of the path in front of me, except a small opening to the left. An opening, which at my current speed was almost impossible to get through. I frantically tried to steer left… But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t quick enough.
With a horrifying thump, I crashed into the tree, the little air I had bursting out of my lungs. I seemed to halt in mid air for a moment as I flew backward, then landed on my back, gasping. A thought ran through my mind. Maybe I still have some time. I wouldn’t need much. Just enough to find him and… make sure that he hurts no one in the future. Then no one would have to suffer… Not anymore.
A shadowy figure stepped out from behind the oak. Maybe it had been luck which had prevented me from going in that direction… But no. There is no such thing as luck. Death was here for me, to take me, either way.
“All mighty, as they say,” he hissed, pleasure pouring out of him like vapour. He had me. He knew.
“Aldrin,” I whispered, trying to quiet my still gasping breath.
He came closer, his features more distinguishable: a tall man with silvery hair and green eyes, a midnight black cloak flowing around him. He could have been handsome, and I am sure he was a long time ago, but now he wore a sour expression on his face. “Who else? They left you. I can’t blame them. Now get up and die with honour. I, after all, should reward those coming with such a haste.”
I started to move. “honour? What do you know about honour, Aldrin? You, the outcast?”
“Better to be an outcast than an all mighty,” he growled.
Yes, a sour expression indeed. It seemed to deepen even more. “If that is what you choose to believe.” I slowly got up, gathering everything my exhausted body could lend.
“Ah, Kira taught you well,” he mocked, as I swayed unsteadily on my feet.
It wasn’t Kira, A voice that was not my own murmured in my mind, causing a memory, that was not mine either, to bubble up to the surface of the confusing mess that was meant to be my thoughts. A memory of a man, rising me with a bucketful of water, and asking me if I knew how to hold a sword.
“Calm,” Kira’s voice called to me from beyond the black, ominous shadows of peril. “To use your power, you need to be calm. Like the surface of a pond. Do not let others influence you. Listen to the whisper of the wind.”
“I need no lesson to kill the likes of you, Aldrin,” I said, trying to buy time. To regain some energy, even a tiny, tiny bit.
I focused my thoughts on him, trying to prevent the nimble feet of the child in my mind to find its way to memories. Bitter memories. Like how I had knowingly told her a pond with no fish to cause ripples on its surface would be no pond indeed. Like how she had smiled, and how it had lifted me to the moon.
Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks. The child in my mind had eluded my grasp again, after all, and I began to remember.
“We shall see, all mighty. We shall see.” His smart retort pulled me to the present.
We stood in silence for a moment, then I closed my eyes and I was sure he did the same.
I let my surroundings fade away–the forest, Aldrin, his bitterness–focusing my mind on my will – a blade of flame. I felt its cool grip appearing in my hand and smiled: my body will not give up just yet.
I opened my eyes and looked at him questioningly. His eyes were still closed, but a blade of white fire glowed in his hands.
“Since when do you fight with a blade of peace?”
For a moment he seemed to ignore me, as if savouring this moment, as if summoning a blade of fire was something he loved yet was forbidden to do. Then he shook himself and looked at me. “Ever since you use flame to make peace,” he said, chuckling.
I peeked down at my blade: a roaring wall of amber fire. Could it be that he decided to come back? Could it be that even after these years he still regarded me–us–as one? And if yes, could it be that I made a mistake somewhere… But no. It can’t be. I have this blade for a reason. And I won’t stop. Not now. He should feel the same pain I feel every day I wake up. The same emptiness, the same… I stopped this thread of thought. Distraction would only help him, not me.
“From where I come, they say know your enemy more than he knows himself. But enough of this.” I raised my blade.
He grinned. “As you wish, all mighty.” He saluted me mockingly. “One of us dies today, and it will not be me.”
This was the moment I had been waiting for. We both lunged forward at the same time, blades extended, determined to shear flesh. And yet again, the fate I imagined was not mine.
The blades arced through the air–white and amber–and met with a deafening sound. My blade was engulfed by white, while his was engulfed by amber… As if two brothers after a long journey were closing each other in a warm embrace. But sometimes embraces can be deceiving. The impact sent an electric shock down my arm. He wanted me to feel it. His power. His might. Aldrin looked into my eyes, his anger finally flowing free.
“Those people were wise,” he whispered menacingly. For a brief moment, he closed his eyes, as if he was trying to hide his tears. Then, his power increased, and he opened his eyes, glaring at me through boiling flames.
“How does it feel now, Truthbringer? How does it feel to be helpless, stripped off your power?” His voice carried pain and anguish. Then came anger fuming, searing everything into oblivion. “Oh, brother, how does it feel to die?”
With these last words, he sent my blade flying, his wrist easily flicking it out from my grasp. I tried to focus, to pull it back with all my will, but I never saw what came next.
“Oh no you won’t,” he said and ended my attempt by unceremoniously kicking me in the chest. I was on the ground, yet again.
My body ached with every movement now, this could certainly not continue any longer. Not with me getting out of this alive, anyway. My blade lay in the grass, on the other side of the path. I could not retrieve it, not in this position, but I was far from defenceless.
“Well done, Aldrin.” I smiled and let my blade vanish into steaming mist. “But I have to disappoint you, for the last time. I am far from being powerless.”
Leaping to my feet, I lifted my hands, pointing. at my heart. Please, just a bit more, I am so close… Don’t let me down now…
From my index finger, a ball of energy appeared in front of me and slowly expanded, flattened, forming a shield around me.
Aldrin let go of his blade as soon as I did mine, a brief relief showing on his face.
“One more to go,” I said. He looked at me, amused. He waved in my direction. “You are a fool.”
My shield tingled for a moment. Excellent, he is testing my defences. “Oh, Aldrin, I thought we were past this,” I said with a sigh. I hesitated for a moment. He did not attack. My plan was ready.
In this condition I could not fight, nor hold my shield. He was rested, while I looked miserable. I had only one chance. Everything depended on my quickness now…
Gathering all the power I could muster, I let go of the shield, and as quick as I was able, formed a bright red ball of energy. “It’s over, Aldrin.”
He stood still, maybe too still.
I had no choice. Either now, or never. With a blinding speed the ball began moving toward him. At the last moment, he dodged effortlessly out of its path and lifted his hands. He looked at me with a pitiful shrug, and uttered a single word: “Lornath.”
Something hit my chest, but I had no time to see what… I had to end this, here and now. I lifted my hands, palms facing outward. This was going to be the last blow.
“Is that the best you can do? Now seriously. Just standing there and–”
And then the pain hit me. Lornath, the raging web of fire. This time, I had no shield to block it. If you think you ever experienced the most painful thing in the world, you are wrong. This is true pain. Blinding, searing, devastating pain. The pain flowed through me, from my skull to the tips of my toes, as though my soul was being ripped out by an iron grip. The pain was so great that for a moment, my breath was caught in my throat. He was right. Those who said you must know your enemy were wise. He knew me, more than I thought.
And he still stood, but now laughed. Mirthlessly, victoriously. His figure was lit from behind by a flashing light that he had perhaps conjured.