As I flew toward the rupture where the Fallen awaited, presumably with the Zion, painfully sharp pangs of dread and fear began to assault my heart, and even my soul grew faintly cold. A Fallen to face a being who once stood in the presence of the Creator, this was closer to the Creator than most finite beings ever come, and here I was racing off, not to revel in this being's presence, but to engage it, and possibly violently so. And while I am not outwardly an arrogant individual, I usually face daunting odds with more conviction than what I currently felt, as I cruised toward this Fallen, who had allegedly kidnapped my dear friend.

  You would think that I'd be at the rupture almost instantly, traveling at the speed of thought, but this dreamscape was exceptionally large, and it was taking some time to reach the rupture. I tried to minimize my uneasiness by flying erratically. Flight was such a beautiful thing, I wish everyone could experience this. But as I cruised closer to the surface of the water, I saw the unmistakable remains of the First Elder's personal guard, which is not to say that I saw horribly broken and mangled bodies as you would on a normal battlefield, but the remains of human souls that died on the dreamscape. Spiritual death is not quite like physical death, indeed, the two are very different.

  When you die physically, your body, which is not much more than a vessel for the soul, simply ceases to function for whatever reason. And while there are many grisly and undesirable physical deaths, none compare to the death of what the physical form contains. Of course, only the Creator can truly destroy a soul, or a consciousness to be a little more explicit, since all souls belong to Him, if they are not an actual part of the Creator's consciousness. But like many things, that is a debate that no being knows the answer to, and so we must simply leave it as it is. However. to see a consciousness fade away on the dreamscape, when it is separated from its husk, is a horrible thing indeed. Not much more than wisps of energy, the soul degrades, and the consciousness loses its cohesion. But this is not like "blacking out", imagine losing every memory and thought in your head, and worse yet, being unable to stop the loss or even form new memories -- a terrifying exercise in futility, like trying to hold sand in your hand. Indeed, the beauty of a physical death is that the loss of consciousness is rather abrupt. The brain ceases to function, your consciousness no longer receives physical stimuli, and then, the neurons in your brain can no longer hold an electrical charge, and your consciousness transitions to its next state. But on the dreamscape, there is no physical mechanism to ease the transition, it is just the transition itself.

  I shuddered as I simply looked away. Most of these beings were too far gone to help, or even ease their suffering, for what remained was only a few of the building blocks of consciousness, self awareness, thought, will. These vanquished souls had already lost these things, only fear and pain, coupled with the desire to live, remained. I flew faster as a tear swelled in my eye. No one deserved this -- whoever this Fallen is, he is a monster.

  And then, from the corner of my eye, I noticed a slight movement. Someone was still alive. I abruptly changed course and willed myself instantly to the fallen legionnaire's side. As I carefully tried to pull the legionnaire's head above the water, I recognized her. It was the Captain of the First Elder's Guard, Joshua, of the 11th Tribe, Bearer of the Standard, Seeker of the Hidden, Marcher of Faith. I had met Joshua in my elementary school, she had been the First Elder's "assistant". Her soul flickered as I tried to hold her delicately in my arms. She managed to smile at me.

  "Conserve your strength Captain. Words are not needed here. I will stay with you until it is time."

  She reached her hand up to my face, and despite the effort required, she spoke, "Did you know that I have loved you from the moment that I met you? You were such a beautiful child, lost in a terrible, evil world. But we found you. We found you. A Seeker can go life times and never encounter one like you. You have made my life have meaning. Do not throw away the love of my life here. Leave the Zion. Let his foolishness be his undoing. The thing that awaits you it it I have never even read of such a horrible being. Please. Please Champion, leave this place." And then, just like that, she let go. The remaining energy from Daniel's Prayer dissipated with her -- obviously unable to protect her from whatever evil awaited me. I held her "after image" and cried.

  She was right though. Not about me being special, because I wasn't, the Captain was simply a beautiful person, thankful for all life had to offer, regardless of how tragic. And she was especially thankful for the opportunity to save another, and save me her and the First Elder had. Yet, there was no denying that I was a fool to continue. But then again, I could not turn back, albeit the Captain's plea had touched my heart. She deserved better, although I knew that word had no meaning. Only the ignorant even use the word. And so once again, I steeled my resolve and rocketed into the sky, onward to whatever destiny awaited me.

* * *

  The High Demon Lord Antares sighed, but continued to emote,This you and the murderous you are the same. As always, you are so conflicted in your actions Champion, this must stop if you are to truly obtain power ...

  I stared quizzically at Antares. Killing the First Elder and fighting to save the First Elder's grandson seemed like very different things to me. But as always, Antares had shared with me wisdom that I would not understand for many years.

Return to TOC:tmh Chapters