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A boy walks along a rough, dark tunnel. With no light to show his way, all he can do is walk carefully, holding the walls for guidance, and sometimes crawling to feel the ground beneath his feet. Twice he had fallen to holes too dark for him to see. Twice he had fallen farther beneath the surface.

The chaos of battle above when he fell is now a distant memory. How long had he walked underneath the earth? How long ago did he fall? Is the battle over? He can’t know for sure. Under the earth, in the darkness with no source of light, it is impossible for one to tell the time. In the darkness, even the counting of seconds becomes difficult. How long is a second? How long should he wait before one second is complete? Does a single step take a second, or does it take two?

For all he knew, the battle above could’ve been over.

For all he knew, the world had ended.

For all he knew, he was probably the last life in this world.

Yet, his feet keep moving. Why is he still walking, he wonders. Perhaps he still has hopes. Perhaps he believes he can still find a way up to the surface.

Or perhaps, he simply has to walk.

Perhaps, stopping will end everything.

Is there any hope?

As he walks, he yells into the darkness, no longer caring who or what can hear him, “Oi you gods of the world. You who allowed this to happen! For what purpose do we worship you all our lives if you can’t even stop one of your own from destroying our world? You bastards who took our worship for granted. Where are you now?!”

He falls to his knees, his tears no longer can be stopped, nor does he want to stop it. He has lost all strength. What purpose does he have now?

When he fell into the deep hole, the allied armies were already in full rout. Despite the order to hold the line, despite knowing that they were the last hope of all who live, despite how many thousands lost their lives creating the power stones with which to charge their grand spells, the army fled. The last hope, the final defensive line on which all the wishes of living beings rested was no more.

He tried to deny it at first, but deep inside him, he knew even then that there was no longer any hope. He doesn’t even know if he is still alive. Perhaps this is his Hell, to forever walk in this darkness for not being there to stand beside his mistress, the Priestess of the Holy Song, Selenia the Saint of Starsilver.

“Gods! Answer me! Punish me if you wish! My mistress! Save my mistress!”

He closes his eyes, his eyes flowing with tears and his nose blocked with snot. Regardless, he kneels in the position of worship and asks the gods with as clear a voice he can. In his mind, this is perhaps his last prayer.

“You gods! If any of you are still listening. Listen to my voice! Punish me if you wish. Burn me in fire. Bury me in this tunnel. Drown me a thousand times if it will be enough. Exchange my suffering for my mistress’s life. I beg you. If a thousand times is not enough, drown me a million times. She deserves a chance. Our mistakes, let it not be her burden!”

The moment he speaks the last words, he feels a bright light shining through his pupils. He opens his eyes and quickly closes his eyes again. After walking in the darkness for who knows how long, his eyes are completely blinded by the light. Yet it is for naught. He can no longer see, for mortals who see the bright light of this presence will be forever blinded by its brilliance.

“Child, what is it you desire?” A voice echoes inside the light.

“What - who are you?” the boy asks.

“The gods of your world call us The Anchor of the World. Of any human names, we know not. You may call us the same.”

“Gods? Are you a god?”

“God ... we are not aware of being called this. We do not exist in the same plane as the gods of your existence. We are merely The Anchor, who watch everything that ever was, is and will.”

“Can you bring me up to the surface?”

“We can, it is easier than building the stars. But is that what you wish? Do you wish to return to the surface?”

“No...” the boy clenches his fists, recalling his how powerless he was in the last battle, “I wish to be of use to my mistress, but I did my best ... and I still fell short.”

“We understand. Mere mortals cannot stand against such might.”

“But the gods. If the gods will help, won’t it be possible to win? After all, Halleb is only one woman even if she is a goddess. Surely the combined might of all the gods can easily defeat her.”

“That is no longer possible. Your gods are no longer in your world.”

“What? Where did they go?”

“To the place where dead gods go, a place not even we are privy of.”

“Dead? The gods ... dead? What ... I ... how...”

The boy breaks down in a babble of senseless words, unable to form even one coherent sentence. Too many thoughts flood his mind. Too many that he can’t even decide which should go first.

“Child, we are aware this may be hard for you to swallow. In place of your gods, we shall give you one last assistance. Speak, what is your wish, child?”

“I-I wish for the gods to be revived!”

“That is impossible. You cannot pay the price.”

“Price?”

“Of course, everything has a price. You know this, no?”

“Then ... give us victory over the forces of doom.”

“Victory at this point requires a miracle. It is a miracle for which you cannot pay.”

“Then, take my life, take my body, take my soul, take everything of me. Just save my mistress, for she is our final hope.”

“If hope is all you wish for, then step forward and touch the light. Hope is all that we can give you.”

The boy gets back on unsteady feet. He stumbles in the darkness of his sight, unaware that his eyes were already burned black in its socket. Despite the darkness in his sight, he takes one weak step after another, guided by the warmth of the light that touches his skin.

After he has taken twenty steps forward, he reaches forward with both his hands. He doesn’t know why he feels as if he has arrived, but he has. His faith is rewarded when he feels something solid, yet he can no longer feel the flames that burn away his clothes, his skin and even his flesh. For he has touched a power beyond comprehension, that his mortal shell can not withstand its greatness. Without pain or suffering, his body, his soul, the entire existence that makes up the boy are undone. To the world, he never existed.

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Shiina Ai
Author
Author Works

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