And I stood there, peering out beyond to a land not seen by any but myself, crossing between what was fiction and what was reality, my memories. My life flashed before me, and a wave of emotion struck hard, like a smithy’s hammer to a smoldering sword. I could see faces and I could see places, so foreign to me. Yet still they carried such a weight with them, and I hadn’t the slightest idea why. Were these memories even mine, or fictional ones I conjured up to give myself a sense of belonging and purpose? And yet despite this, I remain here, standing, unphased in my questioning, because I must, because it is required of me. This is my burden, to hold the hilt of my sword in steady preparation for what is to inevitably come, to shift my gaze but not for a second, or spell the damnation of this world. Here I have remained, ever vigilant, for as far back as time allows memory to return to me. A slight breeze kicked up and sent my savoy blue cloak waving. The trees rustled as they always did, some of their trunks groaning in strain at the difficulty of bearing the load of existence, and the branches clattering together. Yet, the grass remained still, as it now always did. And this is the nature of our world; incorrect, fragmented, out of balance. It was not always like this though. The grass once moved with the trees when the wind blew, entwined in their ever-loving dance. The birds lived high in the trees once too, but now they burrowed deep, as they grew tired and numb from the harshness that engulfed this land for so long. The birds could see what we could not when they took to the skies. They felt a sense of freedom and joy, and sang their songs. But then the days grew dark, and they found only misery and despair. The age of Volthame brought devastation to this world and its inhabitants, as the darkness attempted to sweep over all the lands unleashing its anger, hate and jealousy. It had an unrelenting furry that would never be relieved. And in its wake, it left scars of war and terror cut so deep, that the world never fully healed. They came from the depths just beyond the horizon. From the plain that slithers out from under my mountain. This was and still is the conduit from which the darkness flows in the cosmos. It seeks to take what it does not have.
“Jealousy is the cause of so much agony in this world my brother.” Someone once familiar spoke those words to me, but now they’re just shrouded by a wavering shadow in the distance of my conscious, and this shadow distorts my memory ever more as these eternal years pass. I could no longer remember the last time I had seen another Helios, or even another living person for that matter. Am I the last one? Protecting a world that is already doomed to collapse?
“No, I cannot waver, not now,” I said to myself, but only to hush the ignorant thoughts. I must stand guard; this world cannot fall. With that, the sun began to set, then to rise once more, and set once again. In an everlasting cycle.
The normal return of life no longer seemed to be occurring. Winter came and left this year, with no sign of spring bringing the flourishing and vibrant deep green that it used too. The grass was sparse and patchy, huddled together in a warm embrace hoping and gasping for life. Their green color had also left them for something more chartreuse. Yet here I stand, but my gaze has now begun to shift.
“Everything is dying” I said aloud to myself, now questioning the reasoning of remaining here on this mountain top. No longer suppressing the thoughts that maybe the world had come to its end. The tip of my sword dug into the ground, and I, holding the hilt, felt weakness, and my sword fell, landing on the grass turned dust, kicking it up into a swallowing cloud. I looked to my hands, and I could feel a pressure on my face, unlike one I could recall, a feeling that now came from instinct. Tears began to run from my eyes. My knees began to feel weak and buckled. I fell to them, with my heels bearing the brunt of my weight as I sat on them. My arms hung limp and my head low in a great agony, and my heart heavy. I looked to my sword as my only companion. I reached for the hilt, grabbing it, and we both rose together. I looked out, past the now barren waste land that just a year ago had seemed so full of promise, and then to the dense stretch of mountains that lie behind me. My gaze never shifted away from those mountains, and I began to walk.
The mountain top that I had stood upon for so long, was now so distant, and seemed so small. Being shrouded by my close proximity to the heights of the mountain range that began enveloping around me as I pressed forward. These mountains had been taller once, but now had been weathered and eroded over the ages, being beaten on by battle itself at one point. The once white tipped pointed peaks, now rounded, no longer reached for the sky, but long for the earth to swallow them up in a blanket of comfort until the world comes to rest. I walked on for miles, scaling up steep grades and through open corridors that hadn’t seen the movement of life for centuries by my estimate. The sun hung high in the sky, revealing the brown and dying world. The light granted sight to a full length of the mountain range, and it stretched further than the eye could see. But the length of the mountain range bothers me not, I have nothing left to do but walk until the end of time.
The world had changed over the time that I had stood guard. Things no longer familiar to me anymore, other than the shell of what these places used to be. I often find that I cannot recall on my memory to be a sound reference either though. The further I get, the more I feel the pull of the mountain top, calling me back to my post, yanking on my soul in a tight fist. Part of me questions if I should have ever left, and the other part sees no point in remaining where I am no longer needed. For the enemy has not been seen for countless millennia. No messengers had arrived to deliver news on the state of things, and the supply chains had halted.
I came to the bottom of a mountain slope to find a split in the mountain, to what I assumed used to be a supply route. It was empty, no people, not a single Helios, not even any wreckage. The only thing to be found was a metal tie, an old remnant of a battle fought long ago. I could not place what machine it had belonged to, but it had been part of a Helios built one no doubt. I took the tie and placed it in a sack that hung from the armored belt around my waist, and I pressed forward. I followed the old route until it came into a giant opening completely flanked by towering peaks bound together by ridges making one continuous loop around the entire opening. It has the appearance of a volcano from the inside, but I could not discern its true structure without a glance peering from outside its walls. Adjacent from me was an opening that cut all the way up to the top of the mountains breaking the loop, and giving way to a path. But there was another opening, except this one did not reach for the top of the mountain. It arched taking the form of an entrance to a large cave. Light dared not to enter that cave. It was a swallowing abyss that let nothing out. Seeing as there was nothing left to really lose at this point, I made my way towards the cavern. The closer to the center of the volcano esc formation I got, the more I realized just how big this formation was. Not only that, but the cavern grew in size with every step that I took. It wasn’t until I was right at the breach, where the light met the dark, that I could get a full appreciation of how big this cavern was. It seems odd that I would not be able to remember such a place as this, with a cavern so grand in scale. The cavern must have been over forty great oak trees tall. Yet, my memory has not been serving me very well as of late. I took one last look at this dark abyss that under closer inspection almost seemed unnatural. I threw that thought to the back of my mind and proceeded forward. The light grew dimmer, but still enough to see as my eyes adjusted. I could now see down most of the cavern’s length, and it ended quite suddenly. I walked to what I thought was the end, but heard a faint breathing. It was long and great. And then a deep sigh followed, and what I thought was the end of the cavern, began to move.
“By the ancient ones, it’s a dragon”.