This is not the special thing I was planning. This is something I thought about very recently. And so I wrote it.
A Hero Fallen, A Hero Risen
“What happened to you!?” Tom rebuked, his unbridled wrath shooting daggers at the old man. “You were a hero! You were a defender of the innocent, a guardian of truth!”
The man gave no response, coldly staring down his younger adversary. His eyes were dead as the bearskin he wore over his shoulders; blood painted his finely crafted chainmail. The old warrior raised his axe and readied his shield; he would end this young upstart.
“What happened to the great and mighty Willamar Icerender!?” Tom spat, unfazed by his foe’s lethal intent. “You, a hero among heroes, a Koeling of the highest regard, have been reduced to a vile and repugnant fiend! When the paragon of Warrdu took innocent lives in Barren Reach simply for the crime of being poor, you fought him to the death, slaying him with your bare hands!”
The disgraced hero ignored Tom, adopting an aggressive stance. He was going to achieve greatness, and he would not let any ignorant child impede his progress. Tom was steadfast, however, and refused to budge.
“When the Bear of Itrelia threatened the town of Grave Hollow, you battled until neither of you could even move, let alone fight. It was out of sheer respect that the Bear abandoned his quest of destruction!”
Willamar charged forward, his axe powerfully swinging at Tom’s exposed neck. It was with astounding speed and reflex that Tom deflected the blow. Willamar was just as adept at blocking Tom’s counterattack, however. Tom’s recounting of his history never ceased, however.
“When the Cult of the Lost sent their forces against the western border, you lead a charge to drive them back!”
Against a lightly armored opponent, someone as skilled and strong as Willamar would normally wipe the floor with him, but Tom outmaneuvered him at every turn. Tom never broke eye contact, and Willamar began to feel the weight of his judgement.
“You’ve saved countless lives! How many hundreds of children are alive today because of your valor? How many innocent peasants thrive thanks to your sacrifice? And yet you have fallen!”
For a brief moment, the old warrior hesitated. His opponent did not take advantage of this opening, a kindness he had not seen in many a year.
“How did you get here?” the younger man continued. “You’ve become a monster! You’ve slain farmers! You’ve devastated small villages!”
“No…” Willamar protested, denying his sins.
“You were once a hero to children, and now you are the thing of their nightmares! What happened to the man beloved by the masses?”
“Stop!” he said, his voice a pained growl.
“They call you ‘Calamity’ now! But you used to go by a different name! They used to call you ‘Lightbringer.'”
“Lightbringer died fourteen years ago! I am Calamity now!” Willamar screamed, but the will to fight was quickly leaving him.
“I never much cared for titles myself,” Tom continued, his tone more compassionate and less judgemental. “The only title I need is my name; it tells me exactly who I am. But you embraced Calamity like a mother embracing her child. You took it on, as if you were bestowed with a high honor that needed upholding.”
Willamar fell to the ground, his spirit all but broken. Tom stood above him, sympathetic but on guard.
“It was never meant to be this way,” Willamar bemoaned. “The first one was a mistake. I was mislead. They told me that the village was haven to a group of rebels. I was convinced they harbored ill intent and that the whole village was rotten. I…tried to spare the children, but, by then, my ‘reinforcements’ had arrived. Oh guardians, the bloodshed. When I learned the truth, I couldn’t live with myself. It..broke me. Nothing I can say can undo what I have done, and I fear my hands are too bloody to be redeemed. I don’t know that I can stop myself now. You must end me.”
“You were a childhood hero of mine; that’s something hard to forget. Nor am I a man without guilt,” Tom pondered. “But even I have to admit that you may be beyond saving. I think there is a chance to heal, though. A wholly wicked man doesn’t feel the weight of his sins, nor does he wish to rectify them. So, how do we fix this?”
“We cannot. You must end me. But before that, I have a request. You must prevent another tragedy from occurring. I agreed to meet a certain mercenary captain and fulfill a rather wicked contract. If I were to go, I could not resist the reward, but you have no steak in this game. Kill him. End it before things escalate. I know your reputation as the Merciful Mercenary, but you must do this.”
“You know who I am? I don’t recall introducing myself.”
“Vincent told me of you. Thomas Riversedge is not a foreign name to my ears. Vincent…warned me that you were coming.”
“Why would Vincent do that?”
“He was a friend once.”
“…Must I kill you?”
“I see no other way, do you?”
“You know, there was one little girl I managed to save from that village. She gave me a simple bracelet, crude and amateur, but it is my most treasured possession. She’s a young woman by now, about twenty, I imagine. She had the curliest brown hair and the brightest hazel eyes. I know it is unlikely, but if you cross paths with her, please give her the bracelet and my sincerest apologies.”
“Alright, that much I can do.”