A blazing, fiery light draws closer as the warrior finds himself floating amidst softly lit clouds. For the first time in many days, the young man feels contentment and peace. No anger burns within his heart and no doubts trouble his mind. He knows that he is home.
The blazing light grows closer, but instead of bringing joy and comfort as in the past, the heat emanating from the beacon feels dark and corrupted. As the glow draws near, it is not the angelic form of the goddess that becomes visible, but a flame shrouded man with red skin, cloven hooves and long curved horns.
The devil smiles at the young man, an expression more predatory than pleasant.
The words echo in his mind, reverberating deep into his soul.
I have been watching you, waiting for the day that you would come to me. I am pleased that you are here, that I may claim your soul myself
An angelic female form materializes from the drifting clouds.
No. He is not yours to claim
The devil smiles widely, giving a deep bow.
Ah, my dearest, I must disagree. This child has fallen from your service by his own choice, and tasted of my gifts willingly. He will serve me
The goddess shakes her head defiantly.
Tasted, perhaps. But not embraced. He has striven to find his way back to grace despite your temptations and a lack of guidance from my children
The devil smirks in response.
Lack of control over your brood is hardly my concern, darling. He chose revenge over compassion, and should clearly be mine
And then chose to not repeat that mistake, even when manipulated by your servant
More often than not he has fallen to anger and ruthlessness, whether with enemies, friends, or even family
And yet he is here because of the choice to sacrifice himself in order to save two of my children
It was also one of your children that he chose to slay in cold blood, without even attempting to determine the true reason for…
The argument continues interminably, each point met with a counter, delving deep into a lifetime of glories and failures.
An innocent woman injured by an act of revenge…
An ignominious burial for a corrupted sibling…
A woman and her father reconciled…
A mortal insult to a member of the brethren…
A merciful blade swung at a friend…
A life changed by the gift of a few coins…
A friend and liege dead because of inaction…
A grand cathedral build in the barren wilds…
Petty squabbles with his sister
Small mercies to his friends
Acts of kindness and piety
Deeds of malfeasance and foolishness
Spiteful or Generous
Bold or Mean-spirited
Events so remote there should have no memory of their occurrence, yet each relived in vivid detail.
After no more than a brief eternity, the divinities conclude their argument, the loser conceding defeat and vanishing. As the victor smiles down at him, the young man can feel himself pulled from afar, the feeling familiar in many ways, yet also different. The misty glow begins to dissolve and a last message echoes in his mind.
My gifts go with you, but there is a price to be paid. You still have much to learn and the cost of failure will be even more dear
With a gasp, he inhales the cold autumn air and squints against the painful glare of the sun. Everything feels strange; physical sensations, movement, sights and smells. A quick glance down confirms the reason. He cradles his head in his hands as he fights back the feelings of anger and despair.
Long minutes pass before the warrior moves again, picking up the only object on the rock next to him. He places the holy symbol around his neck and stands, orienting himself to the landscape and beginning the long journey ahead.