This is the 47th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
The Fallen Hero by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 17th January 2012
Word count: 1,000
Theme: heroes, fantasy, wrong choices, fate, prophecy, vengeance, guilt, remorse
“You have returned then,” the old man said hearing footsteps behind where he sat.
The footsteps stopped, but the creator said nothing.
“Come Caje, sit, this game is a little childish.”
The footsteps resumed, they walked around the desk, the chair moved, and then shuddered forward. The old man saw no one, but did not appear surprised. He sighed.
“Caje there is no need for the dagger, are we not friends?”
A figure shimmered into being, sat in the chair holding an ornate knife, which he then tucked inside his belt.
“You are right,” the scarred young man, dressed in soldiers garb said, “I am here, as I promised.”
“I sense not as promised, your journey has changed you,” the old man said.
“The journey you sent me on. The prophecy called for five, not six,” the young man said coldly. “What happened is on your head.”
“Tell me what happened. What of the others?” the old man asked, coming to life it seemed.
“Your precious five,” Caje scoffed. “Tell me the prophecy first.”
The old man looked perplexed, then made up his mind.
“On the dawn of the fifth century of the third moon, a great evil will arise in the land of the Ueth, that shall consume the world. Five Warriors, chosen by the last sacred guardian, will set it out armed with innate magics, and ancient weapons. Their deaths and failures are foretold, and the world will fall,” the old man said as if reading from a book.
The young man stared at him.
“That was all. I chose to invalidate the prophecy by altering the number it’s true. I sent you, a talented young man with no training, but much potential, I gave you the sacred scroll to teach you the mystical arts, and that dagger so you might have protection while you learnt.”
“Then your plan was a success the world is still here. The emperor of the Ueth is no more, and his dark powers returned beyond the veil. But the cost, the cost was terrible, and I paid it,” Caje spat at the old man.
“What happened to the others?” the old man asked, visibly concerned.
“What happened? I happened. I killed each and everyone of them, took their power where I could,” Caje said. “It was the only way.”
The old man fell silent, his some of his worst fears confirmed, but facing him was the worst fear of all.
“Julius to whom you entrusted King Erol’s shield, I redirected a flock of arrows with the spells you gave me. His shield only protected him from threats aimed at him. As he lay dying on the battle field, I took his powers.”
“Why?” the old man asked appalled.
“You don’t get it?” Caje said, “The five weren’t powerful enough, their force was too distributed, too specialised. We were barely able to defeat Mazon, a mere cronie of the Emperor. Putting their powers into one vessel was the only way. I killed Jurzen in the dark when he was on sentry duty, he never even had chance to ready his spear.”
“Stop,” the old man said in anguish, “I’ve heard enough.”
“No,” Caje said, “You sowed this, now you’ll reap it. Suze, she was the worst. We were lovers long before I realised what I had to do to save the world. I murdered her as she slept next to me, there was no flying away.”
The old man groaned, and visibly shrank back into his seat, unable to face the killer before him.
“By that time, Gustav and Inda were on to me, it was obvious with Suze’s death,” Gustav the fool challenged me outright. I had too much power though, and with magics I had learnt from your scroll, his whip of unending pain was pretty much a minor annoyance. I strangled him with it. Inda, I thought, had run, but no, he was smarter. I left him to last for a reason, he was most dangerous, many times more so with that hammer. In the end, fighting in a cave is what ended him, crushed beneath a cave in of his own making. His was the only power I could not harvest.”
“There were other ways, I sent six it would have been enough,” the old man said, “You didn’t need to kill them.”
“I did,” Caje said, “Your own scroll showed me how, and made me realise why. The demon I summoned confirmed it.”
“You can’t trust demons,” the old man warned belatedly.
“He was properly bound, and fed afterwards. The four powers, plus my own, were enough for me to go ahead of the army and face down the emperor and his henchman. I won, I was right. I had no choice, see?”
“Is that way you are here?” the old man asked, “You want absolution? I won’t give it to you, there is always another way. Death magic never ends well, and always destroys those who try to wield it.”
“There was no choice. It was them or the world,” Caje shouted knocking his chair over as he leapt up.
“I was wrong about you, I see that now,” the old man said struggling to his feet. “I’m sorry it’s come to this.”
“What are you going to do?” Caje asked, “You are powerless, I can see it. You can’t harm me, I’m here for you.” He pulled the dagger, but was interrupted by the appearance of a blade protruding from his chest. He moved some words, and then slumped forwards.
Inda stood there panting from the exertion, he was wrapped in bandages, and the only hand free was still clutching Jurzen’s spear.
“I’m sorry Caje, I see now you were the wrong choice. I asked too much of you,” the old man said to the corpse, as he passed to help his injured ward back to the bed in the shadows o the room.
“You must be well Inda, you are the last sacred guardian now.”