Darkness all around. Invisible claws were tearing into his flesh. The scent of his own blood filled his nostrils. Stripped of his armor, his cloak, and his sword, they tortured him. Yet the torture of the flesh was nothing compared to what was happening to his mind. No physical pain could compare to it, and he shouted into the Chaos until he thought his throat would bleed.
Images flashed before his eyes that weren’t really there. Memories ancient and forgotten forced to resurface, and then their eyes. He saw himself killing them over and over again. Forced to kill, forced to serve, forced to live only to continue a cycle that never ended. Never any hope. Never any freedom. Only death and despair and eternal loneliness.
Why had he been born to live such a life? Why had he been cursed to bear the burden? Why him and him alone?
There was something in the darkness with him. He couldn’t see it, but he could feel it. He could feel it all around him, tearing into his mind, into the darkest depths of his soul, laying bare every fear, every secret thought, every forbidden desire.
Her eyes. Her smile. She had wanted him to be happy. She alone saw his suffering, and she alone saw him as more than just a servant. She had seen him as a man.
But he was not an ordinary man, and she had given her love to another; someone who could love her in return.
An intense pain threatened to tear apart his very soul, and he prayed for the cold embrace of death to finally take him, but the Chaos would not let him die.
Then he saw it again, her eyes filled with tears as he had stood before her, his sword in his hand. He had never willingly disobeyed before. He had never refused to do his duty, but he couldn’t do it. Not to her. He couldn’t do any of it anymore. Because no matter how many sacrifices were made, nothing ever changed, nothing ever got better. He was never free.
When he had tasted her lips, he had allowed himself to imagine, if only for a moment, that she was his. His and his alone. If he had to die, he wanted her kiss to be the last thing he experienced.
You want to be free.
A voice whispered in the darkness.
All your long life, you have served the Goddess, and what have you accomplished? She has given you nothing.
The voice ripped through his mind, tearing deep and forcing itself to be heard no matter how hard he tried to shut it out.
You will never be free. You will always be alone because you fight the inevitable. In the beginning, there was only one dimension, but the gods tore the universe asunder to make worlds and realms of their own desires. Now the dimensions are many, but it was never meant to be so. These demons only exist because they are born of the chaos that happens when the true balance of the convergence is denied. Even their most abundant swarms could be wiped out in an instant if only the universe could be returned to its original state of existence. Their entire evil race eradicated. The convergence must be allowed to fulfill its purpose. The universe must be healed. All the darkness, pain, death, and destruction can be brought to an end if only these shattered dimensions can be reunited. Everything would be as it should be, as it should have always been, but you will not let it be so. Why do you resist?
“Lies!” he shouted against the voice that tore through his mind. "Who are you?"
You stand against the forces of nature. The convergence brings balance, and balance brings freedom. I know you want to be free more than anything else. I can see it inside of you. I see everything in your heart, even her.
He gritted his teeth as he tried to force the voice out of his mind when a vision passed before his eyes.
Their world; green, new, remade - perfect. No war, no demons or tears or threats of destruction, only peace. And then he saw her. She was not dressed as a priestess; she was dressed like a queen - his queen. Instead of carrying a spear, in her arms she cradled a small bundle from which tiny hands reached up to tangle in her hair. When she looked at him, his heart thundered in his chest. Her eyes were filled with so much love, so much happiness. Without even thinking he could feel himself moving towards her. When he was near, she smiled up at him, and he could scarcely breathe. He reached out to caress her face, and he could feel the warmth of her skin beneath his fingertips.
“Anshar…” he heard her whisper as he leaned down to taste her lips.
Then she was gone, and once again he was left bleeding in the darkness.
It is time for the world to be reborn. Tiamet does not want to let go of her creation, she does not want a world remade without her, a world that does not need her or her servants, or a people who do not worship her. She and the other gods who tampered with the natural order of the universe are the ones who wrought this Chaos. And for this, she would let you spend an eternity alone - a slave.
I can set you free.
He could feel the madness of the Chaos all around him and the emptiness and pain.
“What do you want of me?”
Kill all those who are blessed by the Dragon Goddess. There can be no more sacrifices. No one must stand in the way of the natural order.
“Never!” he shouted, and in his mind, he wondered why this entity would even keep him alive. If it truly wanted to end the sacrifices, destroying him would ensure that.
The world cannot be remade without you. You are the only one powerful enough to find and eliminate them all.
The voice replied to his thoughts. It was in his head, and when he struggled against the will of the other, for a brief moment, he was allowed to connect with the dark entity and see within.
There was a vague emotion mixed in among the scattered thoughts and warped images, an all-consuming drive to remove any possible threat, and a fear that Tiamet would use the blessed to try to find a way to stop the dimensional convergence, or perhaps another who might wield the Strength of the Divine. None could be allowed to live who would try to interfere with the natural order of the universe, and he could feel the will of the other pressing into his mind; insisting there was no other way.
You would have killed them eventually. Isn’t this a sacrifice for the greater good; a far better sacrifice, one that can actually see an end to the rift between our two dimensions? Their lives are a small price to pay. How many more would you let die by trying to prolong that what must inevitably happen? How much longer must the people of your world suffer and live in fear? How many more lives must be lost to appease the god's desire for power over that which was never meant to be theirs?
He thought of her again, but the voice in the Chaos saw into his mind.
Her life may be spared – for you. Everything you have ever wanted can be yours. Serve me, remake the world, and I will set you free.
Thunder shook the sky and birds took flight to escape the storm, but there were no clouds. An eerie purple light began to swirl and pulsate and grow deep within the forest.
A lone figure emerged from the Chaos, clad in menacing black armor and carrying a holy sword, on his back, a cloak of red.