The faint sound of crashing waves carried over the hot air, filling the ears of everyone present with a distant yet powerful roar. The sun blazed overhead, sending relentless waves of heat and light onto the thousands of people lined up below.
Angry red banners fluttered in the hot, summer wind, while swords and armor glittered in the sunlight. Tens of thousands of soldiers, donning red armor and crimson shields, stood alongside thousands of armored warriors atop horses draped in battle colors. Behind them, a horde of robed and hooded figures emitted pulses of hot, searing energy. On a small hill overlooking the sea of soldiers, stood a massive, red tent with a grand flag raised over it.
While the rest of the army was a cacophony of shouts, neighs, grunts, and clanking armor, the inside of the tent was engulfed by a stifling silence. There, the king stood with his hands stretched to either side of a map of the battlefield. Pins of various colors lay scattered across the map: red, blue, white, black, yellow and gray, all arranged in seemingly endless rows.
But the king wasn’t looking at the map, and neither were the several ministers, generals and commanders that stood next to him. Their eyes were unfocused, as if they were all daydreaming.
All of them had heard it; at the same time, in fact. One word, resounding through their minds, making them freeze because of its power and the reverence they attached to the voice, a voice that most people only ever heard at their initiation into the Church of Fire.
But even though they had only heard it once in their entire lives, none of them doubted that it was her voice. The voice of the Fire Goddess.
Two armies of similar sizes stretched far to the right of the army of the Fire Kingdom. These were the armies of their allies, the Light Kingdom and the Water Kingdom, respectively adorned in white and blue.
In front of these armies stood a giant, stone bridge running far into the distance. On the other side of the bridge were the three armies of the Dark, Air, and Earth Kingdoms.
However, the command tents of these armies were all in a similar state. They’d all heard a voice in their head, the voice of their respective Goddess, and each of those voices had told them the same thing at the same time.
So they immediately dropped everything they’d been doing, not daring to disobey their venerated deities. Then their shock gave way to confusion. Why did their Goddess force them to stop just as they were on the cusp of war, a war that their churches had prophesied. Wasn’t this war decreed by the Goddesses themselves?
Despite their confusion, they still sent out orders to stop their armies, while nervously wondering whether their enemies would use this opportunity to attack. For now, they could only await their scouts’ reports.
The thunder of a horse’s hooves hitting stone cut through the continuous crashing sound of the waves as a yellow robed rider thundered across the stone bridge.
Zoe Hill was a scout from the Earth Kingdom who had been ordered to observe the enemy’s position and report back to her commander.
Her hair fluttered in the wind as the horse galloped across the stone bridge. She intended to slow down when she was closer to the other side, but wasn’t concerned about being found yet, since she wasn’t even halfway across the bridge.
Her horse’s ears flicked to the right just as Zoe turned her gaze in the same direction. Another pair of horses were galloping across the bridge. After noticing the color of their armor, Zoe stroked her horse’s neck to calm it down and directed it to slowly move towards the other riders.
As her horse drew near, the other scouts also directed their gazes towards her before adjusting their reins to draw closer to her as well. Zoe gave them a quick nod before turning her gaze forward.
“Has your communications prism also gone silent?” asked the man in black robes.
Zoe nodded. The man turned his gaze towards the front as well. When her prism had suddenly gone silent, Zoe assumed it was a malfunction but quickly realized that although no messages were being sent by the commanders, the prism itself could still send messages, which meant it wasn’t broken.
The people on the other end had just gone quiet. The thought had made her heart skip a beat. If central command went silent, wouldn’t that send the whole army into confusion?
Her prism buzzed soon after, and she was ordered to get even closer to enemy territory. She was also told to report the first thing she saw, as soon as she saw it. The urgency in the voice of her superiors filled her with trepidation. What could have worked them up so much before the battle had even begun?
The other scouts exclaimed loudly before pulling their horses to a stop. Zoe also pulled her horse’s reins, and quickly looked to the other scouts, expecting an explanation for why they were stopping.
The others were staring straight ahead, towards the center of the bridge, so Zoe turned her gaze in that direction as well. And she froze.
In the center of the bridge stood a purple robed figure. The figure had its back towards her so she couldn’t tell who it was but that wasn’t what surprised her. This figure had no presence at all. She couldn’t sense any magic from it! And yet here it stood, right in the middle of the ancient Bridge of Babel.
But the entire world knows this is where the final battle is going to take place! Doesn’t this person realize that this is the battleground for the largest battle of all time?
Zoe stood motionless for several minutes, barely daring to breathe. Just who could this person be? Moreover, they were wearing purple robes? Which force did that represent? It wasn’t the Celeste nor the Pandomins, so maybe a mercenary or a bandit group? But why would someone like that be here? Especially now, of all times!
Just as these thoughts were going through her mind, a bright flash made Zoe raise a hand to cover her eyes while desperately holding onto the spooked horse’s reins with the other. A tremendous pressure bore down on her at the same time.
She wrestled with the reins while tightly clasping the horse’s body with her legs, and barely managed to calm it down. She rubbed her eyes and slowly blinked them open as the blurred images began to take shape.
Several new figures surrounded the purple robed one in a circle. Zoe felt an unbearable pressure from those figures despite being so far away, making her wonder where so many powerful figures came from, and why they would all come to the freaking middle of the battlefield!
The sound of the waves barely carried this far from the bridge.
A robed figure stood alone on a hill overlooking an army, but she seemed to be looking somewhere far away. A growing sense of sorrow gnawed at her heart as she recalled the man she had loved, but a sigh escaped her lips as she realized the futility of her feelings.
It’s too late now, she thought.
Something buzzed in her pocket. Puzzled, she reached in and took it out. Her hand began to tremble and her eyes widened when she saw the small, crystalline prism in her hand, and heard the message being transmitted into her ears.
How could this…? No! This can’t be happening. This…
She burst into the air in a flash of light and began flying towards the center of the bridge.
This isn’t possible! He can’t be here! But if he is… will he still –
Another flash of light rushed ahead of her, interrupting her thoughts. She shook her head. This wasn’t the time for idle thoughts. She needed to see it with her own eyes.
She appeared in the center of the bridge just as several other figures materialized from flashes of light. Yet, she didn’t spare a single glance for the powerful beings that had appeared so suddenly. No, she couldn’t help but give the purple robed figure standing in front of her, her undivided attention.
The other figures stared at the person in purple robes as well. He was a young man with black hair and slightly tanned skin. He wore a pair of simple, black framed glasses. His ethnicity was hard to make out and his face wasn’t particularly remarkable either. What’s more, his aura was virtually non-existent.
Yet, all the other figures held their breath. Various emotions flashed on their faces. Traces of shock and disbelief. Some anger, guilt, and frustration. But mostly, there was a sense of overwhelming fear.
But the purple robed youth wasn’t even looking at them. His cold, brown eyes were directed towards the sky and his face was an empty slate. Even when the others materialized around him, he didn’t show the slightest indication of acknowledging their presence.
She stared at the youth in front of her as her eyes began to swell, but no tears would flow. Her overwhelming shame and guilt held them back. He continued to stare into the sky, ignoring the people around him even as they experienced multiple, conflicting emotions.
She couldn’t tell how long they stood there, wondering when he would stop ignoring them, and dreading the moment that he would. She tried to say something, tried to break the silence, make him react to her, to respond, but the words died down in her throat. She couldn’t even manage a whimper.
Then, as if mocking her inability to speak, the youth sighed and closed his eyes. The others tensed up and held their breath.
He opened his eyes and looked straight in front of himself.
He looked straight at her.
Her mind tensed and her heart skipped a beat, but the cold gaze almost immediately moved on to the person beside her. Her heart went cold, and she bit her lips to stop them from trembling, while holding back her tears.
He slowly looked at everyone that surrounded him, his gaze never lingering on anyone for long. They all felt the sharp coldness of his gaze as sweat began to flow down their backs but they didn’t dare move.
They were some of the most powerful people in the world; any one of them would have commanded the love and respect of millions of people, but under his gaze they couldn’t help but feel insignificant. They couldn’t help but feel afraid.
He lifted his gaze towards the sky once again. He closed his eyes and his lips moved to form a single word.
But she knew what he would say before he even said it. She had heard him say that word countless times but it had always carried different emotions back then.
It confused her, shocked and awed her, when she heard it for the first time. She had felt the power behind the word. Felt the thrill of knowing what it meant. Who it represented. And even when she was wallowing in despair, that word had brought her comfort and relief. But now it terrified her because she knew that this time, it wasn’t meant for monsters or villains.
She was the enemy this time. She was his enemy this time. This time, it was meant for her.
She couldn’t fight back the tears anymore.
A sphere of emptiness began spreading around the purple robed man.
As the emptiness began to spread, she thought about saying something, about telling him how her heart had been mutilated and tortured, how her nightmares woke her up every day, and how miserable she was even when she was awake. She thought about telling him about her sorrow, guilt, and love. She thought about apologizing.
But she couldn’t. She didn’t deserve to say anything.
The emptiness washed over her and yet surprisingly, she felt relieved. She felt a huge weight lift off her chest just as the void engulfed her.
Guess we can’t run from fate after all…
Zoe Hill saw the purple robed figure lift its head back towards the sky. She wondered why the others weren’t moving at all. They weren’t talking, nor did it seem like they were waiting for someone. All she heard was the sound of waves crashing against the bridge’s stone pillars.
Then, a spherical, black emptiness erupted around the purple robed figure. It was unlike anything she had ever seen. It definitely wasn’t dark magic, because she couldn’t sense any magical energy from it. Everyone knew, darkness wasn’t the mere absence of light, rather, it existed as a separate form of energy, therefore the black sphere wasn’t magical, nor was it anything substantial. It was simply emptiness.
Zoe stared at this inexplicable void as cold sweat trickled down her back. She needed to leave, now!
As the void swept over the robed figures, Zoe felt the pressure that had been pressing down on her vanish completely. However, she didn’t have the time to think about that as she pulled on her horse’s reins and made it gallop back across the bridge.
As the thunder of her horse’s hooves resounded through the air, Zoe chanced a glance behind her back. The void was surging rapidly and soundlessly, absorbing even the air around it and the stone below it. The void wasn’t really a sphere, because it didn’t seem to be three dimensional at all. It was like a giant circle drawn on a flat canvas, only it was rapidly expanding in all directions like raging floodwaters.
However, the purple robed figure still stood unmoving, in the center.
She kicked her horse and urged it to move faster, but the void was rapidly gaining on her. The other scouts didn’t respond as quickly as her and were soon swallowed by the void.
Her horse thundered across the stone bridge, the rumble of its hooves accompanying the distant sound of waves crashing against the bridge. The waves slammed and crashed into the stone with all their might but the stone pillars would continue to stand, unfazed and unyielding.
Her horse suddenly reared and she was sent flying off its back. She crashed into the hard stone, her left leg smashing against the ground. She writhed in agony for a few seconds but quickly collected her thoughts.
A broken leg is the least of your problems right now Zoe! Fucking focus damn it!
She glanced over her shoulder at the furiously expanding void. She could barely tell how close it was, but she was sure that it would catch up to her soon.
Shit! Move Zoe, move!
She gritted her teeth and picked herself up. She stumbled and limped her way towards the other end of the bridge, shooting furtive glances behind her at the void.
She tripped. Blood flooded her mouth as she fell face first onto the hard stone below. She was panting; her every breath accompanied by a sharp pain in her chest.
Shit. So… tired.
She coughed up some blood and spat it out to the side. She endured the pain of moving her neck and turned her gaze towards the void.
Well fuck, guess there’s no running from this, huh? Tired, so very tired. Maybe a little rest wouldn’t hurt after all…?
And just as the void engulfed her, she heard the word that the purple robed youth had said. The word that the other robed figures had heard and the word that everyone in the entire world would hear as the void consumed them all. Even the waves would be engulfed by the void, silenced forevermore.
The only sound left was the echo of the word, until it too, faded into oblivion.