My arm aches and burns as my heart pounds furiously inside of my chest. I fight the urge to collapse upon the stone floor as I furiously try to wrap my bleeding arm with cloth, mere scraps that are soaked with crimson the moment they touch my broken flesh. My body feels tortured under the relentless onslaught of enemies that have come before me, standing between me and the aims of my mission. My muscles throb painfully as memories from ascending that sheer cliff—and the waterfall which threatened to submerge me into the blackest waters—fade into my memories. And yet the past few hours have been but a dot in history, a mere moment along my journey to salvation, my journey of redemption.
I fall to my knees as I lean against the wall. My cheek caresses the smooth, stone walls of the narrow corridor that I follow; I flinch slightly at the cold dampness rippling across my skin. For a moment, I feel as if I have been plunged into a lake of ice. The oxygen is sucked from my lungs, and the warmth of blood coursing through my veins feels impossibly distant. And in that precious second, all I can foresee is the eventual death knell of my limp corpse falling upon the rocky floor of that icy grave.
Surely it is my nerves, my mind playing tricks upon me. None of it is real. Part of me knows that those feelings and sensations are fixedly things of the past, locked and sealed away in time. They were indeed experiences true enough; yes, even that fear of death was present in those dark moments. Yet I had faced them, I had fought them, and with help from above I had overcome them.
Yet my panicked mind refuses to believe reality. Yea, while the circumstances are like night and day, the stakes are still yet the same. Here within this narrow corridor, upon this slender path leading towards my destiny, doubts begin to creep.
Why am I even here?
Why was I of all people chosen for this impossible journey?
I'm neither a leader nor a hero; how could I be called to this place and beyond?
If I am so feeble and weak now, there's no way I can see the rest of this through.
Just who am I even trying to fool: them, or myself?
How can you possibly save Her when you can barely save yourself?
I wince as the last sentence echoes hollowly in my psyche. The hair at the back of my neck bristles in contempt at the thought of failure, at the thought of failing Her.
The quest I have blindly followed all these months, all these long, lost years, at first I followed it simply for the sake of the quest. For the adventure. For the excitement. For the rampant newness and curiosity. Yet with each trial, though my enemy has yet to succeed in killing me outright, he has succeeded nonetheless in defeating my allies. First he slew Naïveté. Then Curiosity. Excitement was killed soon thereafter. Duty was the next to go. And now, here, Hope has fallen to its knees, and a sword licks dangerously at his neck, toying with him, waiting to see just how desperately he will plea for his life before his inevitable death. None of them have been—are—sufficient. With all of my chips cashed and my last cards on the table, I realize I have nothing left to spend. There is nothing in me that could enable me to pursue these foolish aims further. None of it has purpose or significance enough.
And yet, whenever my thoughts linger over the thought of Her, there is a bastion of light that cannot be consumed by the otherwise omnipresent darkness. It doesn't matter how impractical the thoughts are. It doesn't matter that I haven't seen Her gentle smile in years; it doesn't matter that I had no idea if She still cared one iota for this kingdom; it doesn't matter that I had no idea if She still cared about me.
I had given Her my word, my promise. I swore that I would complete my mission, no matter the challenges and no matter the fear and adversity that stood in my way. She had even warned me that the way would be harsh, my enemies many, and my true friends few. She told me that there would be days when I would not be able to sleep peacefully, either for lack of comfortable shelter or the result of nightmares from the things I would see... and even do.
She even told me that I myself would become one of my greatest enemies.
It is because of Her that I keep going on. It is because of Her that I rise to my feet once again. It is because of Her that I pick up my courage, my blade, and my shattered emotions. It is because of Her that I audaciously dare to open the next door, taking one more step along the journey to freedom.
And as I stand there, looking at my reflection upon that silvery, glassy surface, I know that I don't have enough resolve to defeat the darkness alone.
Yet with Her at my back, with Her thoughts guiding my motives, I know I stand a fighting chance.
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