I awake to the echo of clockwork. After rubbing my eyes I look around. Above me hangs a giant clock. It floats in a place where nothing else other than darkness exists. The time reaches midnight.
The darkness splits in half with light. White light like a spear pierces through this lonely chamber. I step toward the divide. An infant’s cry, a solemn gasp, and the ticking of a clock sound as I approach.
“Child, you have returned. The place you are is the first and last place your existence came to be. From the heights of freedom to the depths of sorrow you fell. Here, you can forget for you’ve become faded.” echoes an omnidirectional and gentle voice.
Cracks of light spread until everything clears up. I fall to my knees and gasp at the sight. Charred ground that black vines grow from goes from horizon to horizon. A mob of people with a dark gray eyes walks around aimlessly. I feel a coldness in their gaze.
One woman grabs my arm. Despair, loneliness, and captivity surge from her weak touch. I pull away suddenly. The mob turns toward me. My mind screams to run but, my body freezes in fear. Stupidly I think about the state of the human condition as they overpower me and tear at my flesh with overgrown nails.
“Damaged. . .” I spit out that single word with a little blood, “Anger and hate vents from broken and lost hearts. Are you looking for a new beginning? I know I am.”
They mindlessly attack me. I feel myself sinking beneath the tide of their bodies. All the emotions gnaw at my heels to keep me stuck here. I cry and scream for help while knowing it’s just in vain. Eventually my body grows numb to the pain.
I dig my nails into the charred ground and pull myself through the mob. My arms collapse from exhaustion. The shadows of their tangled bodies swallow me up whole. I try to remember better times before now because I can no longer feel anything. One memory finds its way among these dark times.
A day where my heart aches but my eyes could no longer cry. My best friend, another kid apprentice in a small town known for its superb smiths, argues with military officers about prices. They call him a greedy kid but they are wrong. He works hard trying to get medicine for kids in an orphanage.
He looks at the villagers who turn away from him. And I, his friend, walk away to work on my craft. After a few hours I run to his family home knocking on the door. No one answers. I decide to sit on their stairs until they return. Before I notice the suns begins setting bringing with itself a cold April shower. Cold and shivering I wait.
I open the door around midnight. He sits there on his knees in a pool of tears. The candles cast a shadow over him but I reach out to touch his shoulder. My thoughts race and no words come out. He pushes me away.
“Where did you go! They, no. . .no one believed me. Those kids are dying! And the military offers nothing while expecting cheaper prices for their duty. They called me a petty thief. No one spoke of my innocence as they called me guilty. Look at what silence does!” he raises bandaged hands missing a few fingers.
“I’m sorry but what could us kids change? They could’ve killed you.” I speak without hesitation and bite my tongue after.
“Get out.” he pushes me back.
That day’s mistake still eats away at my conscience. Thoughts like what-ifs gnash and tear. A wound forms from looking back while knowing I can never change the past. It keeps me awake at night. And my senses return with the old heartache.
“I fucked up back then. I know that. Yet from failure I still dare wish to succeed.” I shout with my whole heart.
“To feel pain is the cost to feel anything at all but don’t become obsessed with it. Learn to grow with every step. And with any luck this darkness, a horde of tainted hearts, will never be. Cure the blight.” everything blurs out of focus.
A time existed where mankind found itself owing a debt to its own hubris. The cities once full of jubilant laughter fell into silence as if they all were in mourning. One man died but his death wouldn’t grant amnesty to those responsible.
Him and a friend saved everything that was, is, and will be. He wasn’t great, humble, nice, or anything. . .definitely no messiah. But he didn’t have to be. A choice came to him; will you run away from consequences or will you face them even if they’re not your own?
The universe began dying after selfishness infected it with a blight. Thirteen heavenly gates manifested into existence. Each gate hosted a trial that could revitalize the universe. These two men faced trial after trial in a desperate attempt not to let everything fade away.
Desnei and Saker, the names of the two, only achieved victory at the last gate. Human rulers didn’t hesitate to martyrize them for their bravery. Two new species created by humanity stomached the brutality.
The Larthans met with the Veryn’Kah (Black Demons) months later. One of the Veryn’Kah remarked about the fact that humanity will recreate the blight. He pushed for extermination. Larthans offered reeducation as a rebuttal because of the human adage “two wrongs don’t make a right”. After weeks of intense debate both parties reached a compromise.
Three Larthans halted action from every human military while the others herded humanity into secure, self-sustaining cities. During humanity’s incarceration the Larthans and the Veryn’Kah fought off residual effects from the blight. The Endarkened.
Sadly thirty centuries wasn’t enough time. The universe decided humanity has to be the ones to save themselves. Us in the Royal Protectorate understand fully what it means to bear the sins of others. I once hated this organization with a passion but now I know the truth. We have a lot to clean up after. This isn’t a god’s mess. . .this is ours and we don’t need a miracle or a holy debt to fix it.
“We protect the innocent; we save the lost and forgive them of their transgressions; we fight darkness to see the dawn; we are the Royal Protectorate.”
A pair of dice, a canteen half full of water,
My tattered clothes, and an aged claymore;
The items I take with myself into this minor hell.
Legends say a monastery once used this place
For burials until a necromancer cult infiltrated.
The clergy couldn’t stop them. They penetrated
Every facet of the faith until they could replace.
Eventually they created a laboratory deep underground
To reanimate the deceased, inspired by fabled liches.
Fabled. The truth is they aren’t. Two factions of the dead
Fighting for revenge centuries overdue. I’m just unlucky.
I slept sound in my home yesterday. In the late of the night they came
And dragged me to this death trap. A victim, a candidate; the same.
I was told to listen to my heart whenever I find myself unsure.
Well I haven’t seen any certainty. This sickness with no cure.
The skies once held much better dreams and aspirations
Among wispy clouds. Silver linings, yeah, they fade away
When there’s no way to ever go back. Altitude unreachable,
At least for now I’m much too far from that calming skyline.
Evil exists even when people are blind. I couldn’t walk away.
A curse placed upon me will run its course. All I can ever do
Is fight against the fate I’ve been given. Is this my punishment?
Armies of the undead rise to meet me. Our endless war
Nothing more than a cry in the dark but we continue onward.
Dragged into these catacombs, forgotten; I still move forward
Chasing a distant skyline. Tell me this, how far is too far?
Something blocks the way back leaving me with one choice.
I must delve the dark if I want to never see memories erase.
The darkness inside lashes at my memories
In an attempt to steal who I am. It’s the mark
Burned into my flesh awaking my inner demons.
My wrath, lust, and pride slithering under my skin;
A burn that never goes away. Will they ever win?
I swallow my unsettled doubts, like pills with gin.
We don’t choose the fights we’re tossed into. Survive,
That’s what our hearts scream. Is that why I still strive?
Dark and cold black flames judge my heart to a feather.
I failed. Know that I’m not giving in. There’s a day that
I gotta see with these eyes and feel with these hands.
My wretched fate repeats day by day yet, I smile.
They call me Ariex Nightblade. I watched wars,
Witnessed genocide, killed a friend; I left
The Royal Protectorate to heal these scars.
This curse I took on instead of being ever so bereft.
My brother Synji bears the other mark.
The endarkened; the illuminated.
We serve two roles in a grand tragedy.
I need to survive. . .reject fate ordained.
A man who lost his life and turned into something called the Grand Judge had a very rough existence. He never knew his parents due to a terrorism attack at the hospital he was born. The government discarded him into an orphanage with no funding until a wealthy couple adopted him. They treated him more like a slave than a kid by never giving him an education.
Ultimately an elderly butler taught the kid to read. They spent hours talking about the glorious world out there. One day the adoptive father fired the man for what he did. The man asked to adopt the kid because this wasn’t right for them to do. After consideration he accepted the offer at a considerable monetary cost.
They walked across town to a house on the outskirts. He taught the kid a lot but his health kept declining. A sickness crept in and robbed the kind man of his life. Eventually the government took custody again sending him into the military as a child soldier. This one journey in life taught so much pain and hate to an already hurt human.
He hung himself. . .
Desnei met a lot of tragedy as well. He never took his own life but life tortured him in so many ways. Many of the events that lead Desnei into the darkest side of his world create the series Rise of the First Blight. He lives in a world created by the Grand Judge (after he lost his humanity by playing god for millions of years).
Desnei is the last hope for the Grand Judge to finally change his heart. . .
“Treacherous burner of the tapestry of fate,
I spent eons creating a perfect civilization
Where pain doesn’t exist. Only destruction
Followed their births. All the suffering I hate.
Why would you forsake my final grand plan?
With a single thought I could start over again.”
“What do you have to hate? The tears and blood
We spill have nothing to do with you. If your flood
Clears the slate we won’t vanish from where we stood.
Each civilization you destroyed remains within.
What are you running from? It cannot be us all.”
“I’m no god. I was just a man that gave up.
When I was given a choice I just ran far away
And the choice caught me. Given my wish
Because I must learn of something new.”
“Maybe that life isn’t something you can choose.
Life has been and will be. Are you afraid to lose?”
“I already lost. A cruel world where I didn’t belong
Lost me with a little rope. The world was so wrong.”
“I pity you. Did no one ever show you a little heart from the start?”
The Mists, what is it? I guess the material that makes up consciousness. It’s something constantly changing but represents the concept of self. The self is not a certainty. People find who they are through their experiences. A blank canvas represents the Mists and life’s experiences represent the colors of paint on a palette. What they paint; what they become doesn’t matter as long as they live.
I thought of the Mists because I’ve always questioned bloodshed over beliefs. Many times beliefs weren’t at fault but used by others with bigger agendas. But what of the ones who believed in what they did? It’d be very cruel if one set of beliefs held credibility while others didn’t. Without certainty I created the concept of the Mists to move people from a narrow mindedness. Will others follow? Probably not. The contingency of humanity doesn’t gain much from working together against those with bigger agendas. They’re better off believing everything they’ve been told because they’d lose a lot of their comforts. I can spout ideals all my life yet get nowhere with my dedication. Selfishness will undoubtedly lead humanity towards a pinnacle moment where survival and luxury collide.
At that point the Mists took on a new direction as the basis of a fictional story. During my leisure time throughout my high school day I fleshed out the tale. A tragic hero named Desnei conquered death only to find himself cleaning up the mess of a world teetering upon its destruction. His world mirrors the real world in some respects to humanity and how we too teeter upon our destruction. Through his efforts Desnei saved his world some time after sacrificing himself. Without going into too much detail he originally lived during a time where four major cities vied for supremacy despite on paper being united by a World Government.
Two of the cities openly assaulted each other causing many mass exoduses during their hostility. Desnei attempted fleeing with his fiance with a military caravan. They discovered the opposing regiment sent out genetically altered humans after the caravan. Either him or his fiance had to assist a few soldiers in distracting the enemy. Chivalrously Desnei accepted the task and promised he wouldn’t die there. The thing about promises is we sometimes can’t keep them because every step forward has a risk. A risk that we turn and run, we try and fail, or we win this bet. He died.
The Mists welcomed the young man’s consciousness as his body stopped functioning. A question he often struggled with in life displayed itself in a way he could easily relate to. Run away or face the truth? Many humans find themselves caught between these two routes. It’s easy living in one’s limited view of life but harder learning from the views of others. Although the choice decided during life might not be the best in death there’s another chance. Is one path right or wrong? Not entirely. People advance at their own pace. A closed-off view will be safer than exploring the unknown. Taking the step from safety towards uncertainty must be directed by the person living the life no matter how much time might be spent. Desnei stated a great response towards himself at this time:
“You have lived your life and died by a choice to help another live one more day. Will you live on believing everything is alright or face that you’re dead without her? It hurts, yeah it should. You’re upset for obvious reasons but a choice must be made. Look forward instead of behind.”
Ultimately he accepted the reality. The place he entered contained trillions of other consciousnesses existing. Some were good and some were bad. Others told him about the layout of the Mists, the rulers of certain isles, the Fog of Lethe, and so many remarkable things he never believed in. Desnei decided he’d set off towards the nearest ruler named Rintaen but discovered true unrest in the Mists. A large squirmish between men and men with wings erupted over trivial matters. After he made landfall one of the men with wings promptly tossed Desnei and his raft back into the Mists. Unsure what he messed up Desnei drifted between that isle and another until a mysterious man appeared. Kronos.
They talked about the Mists for a long time. Kronos explained that the isles share names with writings from multiple faiths. The two isles nearby deemed Heaven and Hell may have similarities with their religious equivalents but they aren’t the same. This Kronos convinced Desnei that he ferried separated lovers from these isles back together at a cost. Desnei asked him if love could bridge a way back to the real world. Kronos replied:
“Of course love can make that a desire but payment is the means by which I can reunite you with your loved one. I often gather small memories from those seeking love but you’d sacrifice much more. I can’t take all your memories or I’d release a monster into existence. What to do. . .oh wait, a deal that only the living could do. Us figments of the Mist don’t truly exist and because of that we can never enter where you came from. Let me use you for my bidding. I’ll smuggle you to a place where hope doesn’t exist so you can do what’s impossible there. Revive yourself.
If you can’t I’ll bring you back here. She’ll die eventually then you’ll both be reunited and I’ll take a few unnecessary memories. What do you have to lose? Desnei think about what could be done if you returned. You probably wonder others never returned but that’s because I didn’t exist back then. A certain difference in the combined consciousness conjured me. So, what would you do with your renewed life?”
“Cherish every second. I’ll do it.”
That single choice started Desnei down an entirely different route than if he waited. This is what the Rise of the First Blight teaches people. We’re all humans trying our best but sometimes we make foolish choices. Good or bad doesn’t matter because life can become very confusing with all the differing variables. The journey he began here will open a new way for many others, a new set of variables. As a story Rise of the First Blight can be described as daunting for it’s meant to be something that reminds humanity about who we are.
My moniker Desnei serves as an antithesis to disparity. I decided that I’d never accept myself standing apart from others and will cross the line when possible. I’m no traitor but a visionary who seeks the unity of all men. We all have a responsibility to our fellow men to stand together through tumultuous times. Such a movement crosses every boundary imagined, it’s something known as compassion.
Often I’ve forgotten what I keep struggling for. Where others see conflict I see an unfortunate consequence of despair. People have never been pawns in a game because they have real feelings. To teach others a different way has been a calling reverberating throughout my body. I know humanity will always hold a candle of hope as long as generous people try. The light will never die if I touch another heart with my simple compassion.
And this is why I write; to let the compassion spread like a wildfire across the Earth, stop the potential hatred that could fuel the sorrow conjuring a million tears, and to help those in need. It’s true I do write fantasy that can sometimes be dark but compassion remains fundamental. The dark stuff exists because compassion was lost leading a few astray. In reality some people face times where life can seem very dark and unforgiving but they can be saved from it. Just reach a hand out for every one who feels lost.
I imagined up a universe where the virtues of humanity are amplified. Emotions are the main foundation creating reality for my characters and they must face them. Slowly the characters realize their universe started from the sorrow a man faced and never could overcome. They must stand against his fallible nature to teach him what he never learned about life. Life might not be perfect but it’s beautiful.
One character finds himself working for assassins after a wealthy mayor steals the his family’s livelihood. He faces many tribulations on the road of his life after giving into his bitter feelings. The mayor knows he wronged many people but finds himself unable to stop because the wealth makes him feel important. When they meet again only one will be alive afterwards. This isn’t directly a story of compassion. This event of indifference marks when possessions possess a man. Why does that happen? The mayor never deeply understood human compassion when he was a child creating a void in his behavioral growth. He inevitably chased his greed to his own grave. Now a young man must face his inner turmoil while moving from a terrible past to an uncertain future.
Without looking too deep into the specifics their stories are easy to relate with. A good family facing rough times can often lead some members into making bad choices. Lack of love will lead some toward any unsavory sense of belonging through such as greed, lust, wrath, and so on. Sins can very accurately describe a person’s disposition when they have lost all sense of control. I believe the best way to counter that chaotic impulse is to show that there’s more than what has been seen. If only everyone could feel like they belong but in a world of nearly eight billion people some can feel isolated. Don’t let them if you can.
I understand this is a very lofty aim but I can believe in it. If the compassionate side of humanity shines brighter loneliness will be eradicated. Through kindness a dark fantasy universe can be saved. So why not this single planet? I truly think humans can do just that.
I grabbed the dual berettas and walked towards the beasts. They clawed at my face as I kicked them back. I crushed one of their necks with my foot. The dark blood oozed out from its mouth. More of those beasts raced towards me.
They pushed me down and gnashed at my flesh. The darkness in their making seeped into my veins. Memories from the souls obliterated by them clouded my thoughts. I screamed because I once knew those faces as friends.
My blood sloshed onto marble floor. The beasts carved to the bones in my limbs. They ignored the meat and reveled in my suffering. Oddly my thoughts weren’t on saving my life but the absurdities in this life.
Fear chained me from ever taking action. I never trusted anyone because they could hurt me. They weren’t these demons but they scared me to the core. What if I failed them? They’d abandon me without a second thought. All those frightened souls looking for a reason to stay.
We walked away from each other. When the demons arrived we ran from our friends in need. The concept of survival destroyed everything we created together with a single strike. I stubbornly accepted that as the only way but they needed me. What good is living if you’re alone?
I never meant for the love we shared to someday die. This tragedy stoked the dying fire left in our memories. I grabbed one of the demons and tossed it against a wall. My arms trembled from the pain but I used the berettas tearing a way through the pack.
They watched me and slowly advanced. Their warfare tactics pushed me into a corner where I propped me body up. I unloaded on their front line, propelled myself through the formation, chomped on one of their necks and drank the demon’s blood, and suddenly my vision went black. . .
My body banished my mind from control. I joked around with my thoughts during the whole entire time. I shunned myself for drinking tainted blood but knew I would’ve died if I didn’t. The selfish nature I succumbed to will bring its tolls until I’m dead from the weight I carry.
I forced my eyes open to see the horror. Dark blood healed my wounds, my hands grew claws, and I spoke in their tongue. The demons laid decapitated around me and their blood formed a design, a circle split into fourths. Unable to move myself I loosened my grip on my humanity.
Who are you? I am you. The blood holds the memories of others and the demon. When you drank it you accepted us. We are you now. What are you doing? You need to regain control and assume your human form. You’ll die if the demon blood takes over. And how does this fix that? Blood purifying. The afflicted blood makes the symbol, to the left humanity stands, demons haunt the right, and the accumulation of dreams leads the way. Essentially we’ll sacrifice a human, a demon, and a Mistkin for you to live. I DON’T WANT THAT!!! You don’t have a choice, live on for us who reside within. The demon’s chains shattered and our memories don’t want us to die again. Please.
Three near dying beings stood in the circle with me. My demon blood started flowing out of my eyes. The demon and human evaporated into spheres of light cleansing the dark blood. I dropped to my knees because of immense pain. I watched the Mistkin be drained of his blood to save me from blood loss. He absorbed the cleansed blood until the ritual finished. He changed into a being of pure light that spoke.
“Ah, you are the one. The true sinner who stays alive to defend the holy radiance. Born of humanity and bathed in evil. You’ve seen the light from the darkness. A knowledge forbidden because few man are worthy of the sacrifice. To always see the radiance but never reach it. And what is your name Lightbringer?”
“Shadow, a moniker because the real name has been lost.”