Light’s Shadow

The black rays fell upon a simple seal etched into the dirt. The design was carved beside a deep river in the heart of the Living Forest, and it was the consummation of his life’s work. The man knelt beside his work, arms crossed over his chest in the ancient gesture. Blood ran from the ruin of his eyes, dripped from his hands onto the design. Stained it red with power.

His enemies and the innumerable failures of his sworn brothers had driven him here, to this.

Once he finished his work, his last battle on earth, there would be no return. The terrible bonds that held his body to the earth and his soul to the wheel would loosen, he would leave the petty wars behind and fly to inconceivable worlds. He would finally be beyond their reach, all of them. Both the sorcerers who had hunted him and ripped apart his fraternity, and the foul spirits he had raised to protect himself. Neither could collect their due, for neither could follow where he meant to go. But the toll this victory would take upon him, the price he must pay….

He almost allowed himself to shudder. This was no pit of hell, no abyss, no realm of violent and formless chaos he had touched. It was something older, something he might never understand. Once he had thought it was the ultimate expression of cosmic evil, pure and cold. He had been a fool then, was probably still a fool. It went deeper than evil, deeper than he could fathom. Simple inversion perhaps? He knew what fate, what perverted form of survival awaited him beyond the Gate of Black Light, still was it any worse than what his demons and enemies would do when they found him at last?

He could no longer deceive himself, not so close to the end, the irrevocable choice that lay before him, bathed in the rays of the black sun, rays no man with eyes of flesh could see. He had carved his own fate, in defiance of what destiny had written for him. Maybe that was why he knelt here before a gallows he had wrought with his own hands. The path he would tread was worse than what pursued him. But his destruction would be his own.

He gazed through the black rainbow that fell upon his seal, saw the world he had glimpsed long ago, when he stood in the deepest and most fell reach of dreaming. His feet had come to rest upon a corpse that spanned universes, its eyes were the size of planets and when he had looked into them he had seen a thing in their reflection, and he knew. He still knew the night sky of that other place, white with black stars burning upon it. As though they mocked the gods and even fate herself. He stood at last and stepped between the gates. The black light faded and he was gone.