The Tower [not GW related] Part 5
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The Maiden watched as the Warrior threw away what seemed to be his only weapon. It flew so high that she could no longer even see the merest hint of it. The massive shadow drew back its arm to deliver the final, crushing blow.
It never came. The heavens truly were torn asunder, a slim ray of light illuminating the plains around the shadow as a pure white streak fell from the sky. The shadow seemed stunned, before slowly collapsing into two pieces. The pieces slowly began to fall apart, drifting away on the wind, spiraling into the heavens or seeping into the dirt.
As the shadow slowly drifted away, the Warrior picked himself up. His armour was gone. His weapon was destroyed. He had not a single dreg of Essence to call upon. Slowly, the spirit of the Warrior faded into nothingness. The Maiden felt it, not die, but move on. It had found its serenity, a well-deserved rest at long last.
Tori was stunned. The spirit that had so recently, and so powerfully controlled his body was gone. All his memories were flooding back, those of the Warrior fading into nothingness. The greatest creature, demon, or whatever, that he had ever seen was dead, vanquished by the Warrior?s sacrifice, and the magic bound within his equipment. All that remained was the dagger, Unbaraki rune glowing with white heat.
He looked up from the cooling, smoking shard of starmetal that had once been his blade. The Tower was still standing. The boundary wall was as strong as ever. The moat of blood remained. He had failed. All the shadows lay dead, vanquished, and yet, the Tower still stood. Maybe his task was not yet complete.
The moat slowly closed in, the ashen plain sealing over it, forming small islands, then bridges, and finally the moat was gone. The wall still stood. At the wall stood a single shadow, something unlike any he had ever seen before. Looking closer he could make out more details. It wore black armour, and held two blades. It had no helmet, but its head was cloaked in shadows that writhed like flame.
He had not failed. And he had not yet completed his task. One shadow remained. Unbidden, a thought crept into Tori?s mind. This shadow was special, unlike the others. It had a name.Nemesis.
He looked at the dagger in his hand. The blades in Nemesis' hands. As he stood there, unmoving, another detail of the Tower was revealed. Chains anchored it to the plain. They were only visible now, as the Curse began to weaken, feeding its power to Nemesis. Tori knew what he had to do.
Taking the dagger he rammed it between the links of the chain nearest him. With a monumental effort he twisted the dagger, rune glowing red, until the link snapped with sound like a cannon firing. The walls of the Tower itself seemed to buckle slightly.
The next chain seemed to be made of bone, but was just as hard to break. Nemesis began slowly moving towards him. Tori moved to the next chain, it was hard to see, made of air and shadows. When that link broke a massive crack ripped down the side of the tower. Nemesis drew ever closer.
The Maiden watched the Warrior who was no longer channeling the Warrior?s spirit begin to break the chains of her bondage. When he broke the third chain she saw a massive crack begin to splinter the wall. Suddenly the room she was in was closer to the ground. Nemesis, the demon king, followed the Warrior implacably.
Two more chains. One of flesh and blood, the other of hardest stone. The top of the Tower crumbled away, great blocks of arcane masonry crashing to the earth, sending up clouds of ash and the dust of ancient bones. Nemesis' first strike came from nowhere. Pain flared up Tori's spine.
He whirled to face the shadow king before rolling past him, headed for the final chain. That chain was made of fiery links, searing heat slowly burning through his clothes as he approached. Trying to ignore the pain, Tori slammed the dagger between the links as hard as possible. With a great, rending snap they parted.
The Tower crumbled, brick by brick, crashing down in slow motion. Atop the destruction stood the Maiden, white dress billowing and flying in the wind. The chains were broken, the Tower was destroyed, now only the wall remained.
Watching in horror, the Maiden saw the Warrior stabbed savagely by the blade of Nemesis. He keeled over, slowly falling backwards. Nemesis faded into the shadows, content to watch his victim die.
The Maiden fell back against a piece of still-standing wall. She sat, knees pulled tight to her chest, weeping. The wall still stood, and the Warrior was dead. She
would never be free. She prayed, prayed with all her heart that perhaps this one would be spared the agony of dying alone.
"No," a quiet, sad voice whispered in his ear. "You cannot die here."
It was in fact the voice from the dream. It was not a command, or a statement. Not now. It was a wish. A prayer. Pain flaring through his body, wracked with agony, he rose to all fours, crawling towards the wall. Dagger in his right hand, he slowly clawed his way forwards. Blood dripped from the wound in his chest, ran across his back.
Slowly, torturously he made his way to the wall. Through his blurred vision he could make out few details. It looked like stone, but between the stones it looked bones had been ground for mortar. Every so often a rib or leg or some other bone protruded from the wall.
With his last ounce of strength Tori did the only thing he could think of. The dagger's blade bit deeply into the stone, embedding itself in there. As he fell, Tori knew, without a doubt, that he had done the right thing. Nemesis screamed, suddenly fading away in a cloud of red-black smoke. Tori lay on his back, a pool of blood slowly spreading around him, staining the ashen plains with crimson.
The Maiden saw the wall slowly begin to swirl, individual stones rippling and fading. Faster and faster it went, until there was nothing left of the wall but a faint tang of blood and a thin mist of blood and shadows. She saw the body of the Warrior. He lay beside the wall, blood slowly spreading behind him in a great pool. His chest did not rise and fall. His eyes did not see.
The sun begins to rise, drawing slowly above the clouds. She still doesn't quite understand what has happened. This man has died, he gave his life for something. What it is, she does not yet know. As the sun continues to rise, creating a strange pattern in the blood, she begins to realise.
He did not die to save her. He did not die to be with her. He did not die to destroy the Tower. He died to give her something far more precious to him than she might ever imagine. More precious, even, than his own life.
She is stunned. She is alive. She is free. But he is dead, lying on the earth in front of her. Her love is dead. He died to return to her that which was so cruelly taken away. In doing so he has hurt her even more.
But now she can feel. She can truly feel, no longer forced into anything by the Tower's Curse. She weeps for this man, for what he has done. Her love is dead.
And her life has only just begun.