Ride

Stormclouds rolled in from the east, as if in challenge to the tempest being unleashed on the field of battle.

The earth around him had been torn apart. What had once been a lush valley was now but a blasted land bearing nothing but the bones of an unholy crusade. The mage had yet again created a graveyard – one that was being desecrated by the countless other foes that followed in the wake of the fallen. The dead trampling over the dead.

Magic had trailed through his muscles to leave him spent as it had burned it’s way through his body. It had taken everything out of him. What followed was a crippling pain that left him stiff and unable to move as the enemy closed in around him. His knees had buckled from exhaustion, but still he flung spell after spell as the monsters relentlessly sought purchase over his life. He was no longer fighting to beat them. He was fighting to stay alive.

Their numbers were just too great.

He had taken out scores of them. Close to a legion. But they kept pouring forth as tireless bodies reanimated as soon as they had fallen. The magic he had unleashed to rip apart the army’s demonic cohorts had decimated large swathes of the undead. But still, others came to take their place. And those that were not completely destroyed by his spells had soldiered on to press the assault.

“Damn you. What would it take to drive you back!” His body was trembling from the arcane exertion. He could feel the clawed gauntlets glowing with a white-hot intensity as it had focused his magic to unleash his devastating assaults. One was even bloodied, covered in the dark gore of a demon who had come to close. A few of the fiends had gotten to him, ripping at his cloak and narrowly missing tearing into flesh.

He was still fighting, throwing volleys of magic at the encroaching menace…until he couldn’t. As the last of his energy surged from his fingertips, he bent over and fell with hands pressed against the ground. His vision swam in front of him, making the earth seem moving and unsteady.

Tystnad had been here before… In this moment… At this impasse of destiny, when the horde of darkness had descended upon him, and he had felt powerless to stop it. And yet, he thought, have I not given everything for the sake of unleashing that power? To end this menace and rewrite the failure of the past?

He looked up then, and saw how the maw of the enemy had opened to consume him. Black shapes barreled down towards his position at impossible speeds, and Tystnad was sure that the last thing he would witness was the faceless countenance of his foe before it killed him–

Until the nightmare was bathed in burning crimson, as fire rained down from above. With his consciousness slipping, Tystnad could only barely fathom the shifting tide of battle. Had he been aware, he might have seen the great winged shadow, descending from above, dousing the encircling dead in flames. Had he not been losing consciousness, he would have been able to distinguish the muddled sound of screaming demons from a dragon’s roar. Had Tystnad not succumbed to the full numbing might of his own power, he would have felt as a massive claw gently closed around his body, lifting him up from the flood of undead that now filled the space where he bravely made his stand.

He faintly remembered the sight of blue… as his awareness had trickled back, if but momentarily. Whether that was the last traces of arcane energy aglow in his eyes, or if it was indeed the great expanse of open sky, Tystnad felt a sudden peace in the ride into the clouds. There was a calm in flying through the air currents high above and out of reach from the requiem of lost souls and distant memories that had so very nearly been his end.

Inktober #28

You may want to read the following interconnected tales within the Inktober series:

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