Note: This was originally submitted for a contest. It hasn’t been edited beyond what was submitted. Originally inspired by a Coheed and Cambria song. Later re-written to take out all references to said song.
Randall walked the road in silence. His violet eyes stared intently at the horizon spreading before him but he still couldn’t see the great armies that he knew had amassed just beyond his sight. Their numbers were said to drench the very land itself with black bodies. Such implications filled his mind with the most horrible images he could conjuror. He swallowed and released a heavy breath. There was still time. By the light, he still had time.
Frightened eyes watched him from behind the towering gates of the great city, the last bastion of majesty in the fallen kingdom. His heart sank in his chest like a great weight. Every pair of eyes stared at him with hope. They had offered solemn prayers, tokens of thanks, and kind words on his journey. They had steeled his will to an act he knew would either liberate or damn them. It hadn’t mattered that because of him they had found themselves in the terrifying situation his people now faced. It hadn’t mattered that he had unknowingly released a plague that had taken most of the kingdom’s populace while they slept. He was their savior. Their eyes echoed that sentiment.
Randall found his eyes darting amongst the faces in search of the one that buoyed his spirits. There she stood near the front in all her youthful wonder with her arms stretching toward him and her bottom lip tucked squarely between her teeth. Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes. He sucked in sharply. If there was anything that gave his noble mission pause, it was the thought of her. It was because of her that he had taken all the chances he had, hoping desperately to prevent her death as she lay wasting away in his arms. He had succeeded, of course, but at what cost? Randall smiled. She returned it in kind. At the cost of her beautiful smile; his sweet little Annalina. With iron resolve hammering in his chest, Randall turned to the tower of Fal’thorn spiraling above him, the very tower from which all of their problems had begun and from which he hoped to end them.
Randall pulled the door to the temple open and ascended the stairs inside to the top. As he passed a stained glass window, he heard distant quaking. When the circling staircase afforded him a look at the horizon, he saw the rumors were indeed true. The armies marched across rolling hills, blackening the ground as if it were a living mass coming to trample his people. Roaring flames erupted from the mass, demonic magic hungry for blood. Randall stood transfixed with terror. It had been he who called them into being with his selfishness. He faced the stairs. He had to hurry; for his people and the little girl that called him father.
He took the stairs two at a time, never again pausing to look out the windows. He had lost too much time staring at what faced him. The armies came.
Randall reached the summit and turned to the horizon. With the mountains far to the south enclosing the kingdom, he finally saw the full extent of the army. There was no unsoiled ground beneath its withering mass, moving as one slow being towards them. He swallowed a shiver back down his spine. Before turning away, he stared into the distant mountains where the daemon lords would be patiently waiting as their armies marched. It was there he would direct his anger.
Regret sat in his throat. He had meant to save her, to save his people from a fate worst than mere mortal death, but had instead doomed them to walk as nothing more than ghostly after images of their earthly selves. Even after he had found a way to pull the plague from the lands, he had delivered them into the hands of a menace they had banished thousands of years before; now those exiled lords sought to reclaim what had once been theirs. The tower of Fal’thorn stood as the symbol of that past struggle.
People in the city stared up at him. His eyes danced around in search of Annalina, whom he spotted with her arms outstretched reaching up to him. She mouthed his name. For her he would succeed.
Randall turned to the center of the tower and held his arms aloft. Soft white light pulsated between his palms as his fingers wove around it, growing it as its soft colors turned his purple robes lavender. Staring out at the black armies closing in on them, Randall lifted his arms into the air and sent the ball into the heavens. The ring of steel and murderous chants of daemons finally graced his ears. They were close.
There was only one way he knew to rid his lands of the daemons that now encroached on his people. Not a trace of apprehension pounded with his heart. For her, he would succeed.
Randall’s eyes turned to the heavens as he watched them open. Clouds swirled around silken white light that fell from their midst and bathed the tower. In that light, free of fear, hatred, guilt, and apprehension, he felt only love. He poured that love into the heavens. The people below gasped and held their collective breath in wonderment. Randall’s feet left the ground and he held out his arms as the light pulled him closer. In that moment, Randall gave his ultimate sacrifice.
The light erupted into flames. Randall’s bliss turned into deadly vengeance. The heavens shuddered with a crash. Snaking tendrils of righteous justice seized his heart. In its wake the tower beneath him shuddered violently. The stained glass windows shattered with a roar and each brick moaned and crumbled with the fury of heaven’s blast.
The living flames consumed Randall. Shaking, he splayed his hands out to his sides and screamed before the roar of the fire drowned him out. “Annalina, watch over me!”
The tower exploded in a flash of glory. Chunks of stone skittered across the ground. He felt the fires changing him, reforming his body into their living messenger. He shivered, calling out to Annalina again. “Annalina, watch over me!”
Randall gestured, his unabated hatred directed at the dark mass below him. “I have come as only the heavens are able to give, reformed!”
He pointed. A long tendril of flame and smoke followed his burning arm’s movements. His voice thundered with anger. He could think only of little Annalina behind the gates and the murderous deeds the daemons would have done to her. “For the deeds you have done, Heaven’s message is clear.” He screamed. “I will kill you all!”
Randall rushed to the ground towards the army with the righteous fire of heaven behind him, scorching the ground for miles in either direction. He had but one thought: death. As he struck the front of the army, he heard the howls. He need not look to see them fall. For miles they dropped from the wall of heavenly vengeance sweeping out behind him, smoking, still. He drove further into the heart of the army, felling everything across the field. He knew what they would have done to his people. His sacrifice would be salvation.
Randall screamed as he roared passed the hills and valleys that held the army, into the encampment of daemon lords. All five stood watching, resolutely challenging him with lifeless eyes. They spread their black wings in contention. Randall didn’t wait for them to prepare. He plummeted into them, twisted their already crooked forms with his fire, and cleaved their hearts, pushing their souls back into the nether abyss from which they had come. The thought of Annalina encompassed him.
Randall raced back towards the city, watching his fires consume what remained of the armies. The heavens again opened with their light as he neared the smoking rubble of what once signified the sacred tower. They extinguished the fury undulating his body and wrapped him in a white shroud. The light pulled him closer to the heavens from which he had beseeched help and guidance. In his sacrifice, he had given everything he had: his life.
As he rose, he looked into the city and saw Annalina standing with her arms outstretched pleading for him. Randall answered her with his own. He watched as Annalina’s feet left the ground and her tiny body began floating towards him. She wiggled free from those trying to grasp her and ascended towards him. Randall encircled her with his arms and held her against his breast. Annalina smiled at him and gave him a kiss on his cheek. Her tiny voice whispered a word of thanks to him. Randall smiled into the light as it bathed the two of them before they disappeared through the clouds.