Glory And Darkness
He felt the pull again. Tugging at him from afar. Discomfort of a persistent child waking their parent from deprived sleep. He tried to ignore it, knowing that wouldn’t work. Just a few more moments of peace, please. What could they have need of this time?
But the pulling did not cease, it only became stronger; and Ashfa The Unbroken slowly blinked his eyes open in the void.
The darkness where he rested—weightless and without worry or pain—filled his soul with longing and resentment. Could they not find a way without him? How many more times? What could he bring they did not already have? Anger began to fill his soul at the rude awakening, as the tugging became a force that gripped him, pulling him from his resting place. The peaceful darkness became a blur in the distance, as Ashfa fell backwards into the world.
History rolled past, and ancient memories came to life. Born into a tribe of wanderers, he was a god among men. Powerful and invulnerable, all his enemies fell. He carved out a mighty empire and instilled his warrior spirit into his people-the Ashfateim. The glory of his throne filled all who saw him with awe. He was worshipped, but he was without purpose. Ashfa longed for the glory of victory in battle.
With the whole world conquered, it was time for his first sleep. Using arcane magics his priests sent him into the void, where he would rest, waiting for the call to conquer once again. Only a sacrifice of truly noble spirit would be sufficient to bring the weight of his soul back. And nobility was prized far less than victory.
Time after time Ashfa was summoned; time after time he fought. His wars transcended the swords and clubs of his home country, spreading through the centuries and among the stars. Mighty starships laid waste to civilisations, until even foreign dimensions had fear of his name. He rose to glory then darkness, glory then darkness, as the Ashfateim became the most powerful empire in the known realms, and The Unbroken the most powerful being of all.
But it had been millenia since his last sleep began, and the dreams of conquest had burdened his soul with grief. When all is conquered, what is left? What great feats are there still to do? What does war beget a nation? Glory, a kingdom?
This time as Ashfa was summoned, he was not the same man.
Careening into colours and the physical realm, a mighty tear and a scream as the sacrifice flew by, headed to the darkness he so longed to inhabit.
Ashfa collided into reality with such force a pillar of light shot into the clouds, turning night into day. The impact, mostly absorbed by the incarnate magic of the ground spiral, sent a shockwave knocking the spectating summoners to their backs, and uprooting trees at the edge of the clearing all around.
Ashfa stood slowly, coated in the blood of sacrifice, brilliant light illuminating his powerful silhouette. A woman with strong and noble spirit was given for his arrival. The weight of his spirit may even last months with this blood. That notion did nothing to stay his anger.
With great strides Ashfa wasted no time. Now fully incarnate, his massive frame reached the chief priest and lifted him from the floor, “Why do you summon me? Why awaken me now? What desperate need so grips our people, that you would trade such a beautiful life for my war-filled soul?”
“Great Lord,” the priest croaked in terror, averting his eyes from the blinding light. His acolytes and spectators dared not stand, “We are fallen to just this world, and our enemies have come to destroy us.”
“Fools…you are all fools!” Ashfa tossed the man like a stone to water, “As long as you have need of me, you shall never have peace. When you seek me, do you not seek only war?” The priest opened his mouth to protest, but The Unbroken cut him off before he could begin, “Do not try and sell me your nobility, as if such a thing would ever have a cost. You are desperate because you have always wanted war. You are desperate because that is the only path you know. The path I did send you down.” Ashfa gave a sorrowful pause, “You should have outgrown me by now.”
“Great Lord Ashfa, what is greater than conquest? What is greater than victory?”
Staring through the fallen man, thinking of the sacrifice, The Unbroken spoke with quiet regret, “She was. Once again nobility is cast out for the hope that I will kill…You have only killed yourselves.”
He turned from the spiral and headed toward the forest, as the priest struggled to stand, “Great Ashfa! We have summoned you to fight for us!”
“Yours the power to summon, mine the decision to fight.”
Ashfa strode, dressed only in the blood of nobility, light slowly fading from the spiral behind him. The great man disappeared into the ancient landscape, and all became darkness once again.
Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash