Here’s something that popped into my mind just now…
Nathaniel stood there gasping for air, his right arm hanging at a strange angle, his left oozing blood down the length of his sword. “You stand alone,” Rama taunted him. The Dragon King stood tall and proud facing him, his sword gleaming with Nathaniel’s blood. “Drop your weapon and I will grant you, your whore and my traitorous daughter a swift death.” Nathaniel could see that Sora, bound, gagged and injured, was still crumpled where the guards had thrown her. She hadn’t moved through the entirety of the duel between him and his father. Annalise was still chained to the wall, her green eyes blazing with rage. Nathaniel knew that together he and Annalise could best their best their father easily, but his father had the upper hand and the sword Nathaniel had forged in the blazing fires of the dwarven forges. It glittered with opalescent malevolence, hand-sharpened by Beronas, the Dragon’s Wrath had cut through everything Nathaniel had thrown at it and now, would be the blade that executed him.
Rage wells up in him, deep cold rage. Not the mindless, blinding kind, but the rage of a man who knew he was powerless to stop what was about to happen. It flowed from the ground around him, up through his feet, his legs, into his chest… Nathaniel took a deep breath and remembered the faces of the people who had helped him, and paid the price with their lives. The last face he saw was Arianna’s… her eyes red from crying, her face mottled with tears as she bled to death in the tub. She rather killed herself rather than serve Rama Nis’al, his father.
“No.” Nathaniel smiled at the look of shock on his father’s face, the look of incomprehension. “I will fight you until you cut my arms off and then I will tear your throat out with my teeth. I am not alone.” Nathaniel stepped in the small puddle of blood at his feet and drew a circle around himself even as his father raised his sword and rushed forward to strike. “I am the rage of the ancients and your reign of terror ends here,” Nathaniel roared in defiance as he prepared to defend himself.
As his father rushed towards him, the Dragon’s Wrath hissing through the air like a fire dragon, Nathaniel stepped backwards out of the circle of his blood. His father stepped into the circle and the symbols Nathaniel had been cutting into the stone floor and marble pillars flared to life. It had taken him the entirety of this fight and the sustaining of many, many wounds to complete the binding circle. He smiles grimly as he sees comprehension dawn in his sister’s eyes. What she had assumed to be the inept flailing and wild swings of a terrified young man were calculated strokes of his sword carving symbols into the stones around them.
Nathaniel listened as his father screams in pain and rage as he slams against the invisible walls the circle of blood he had created. “Dwarven runes,” Nathaniel explained to the wild-eyed gaze of his father. “That was why you didn’t recognize what I was doing. I am the son of Rama Nis’al, which is why this worked at all. A binding circle is only as strong as the medium it was created with and since you decided to possess my father, the only thing that could bind you would be our blood.” He smiled coldly as his father’s eyes widened in shock.
“How long have you known?” hissed a voice from his father’s throat that was no longer Rama Nis’al’s. Nathaniel hobbled over to Annalise, unshackling her with great difficulty. Annalise tore the gag from her mouth angrily rubbing her bruised and bleeding wrists while glaring at what was left of her father.
“I wasn’t certain until just now,” Nathaniel said over his shoulder as he checked on Sora. The thing wearing his father’s skin like a suit paced around the inside of the circle, already looking for a means of escape. “I suspect my father has been dead for nearly a decade now, I don’t know how he came to be possessed by you, but I do know that it ends today.”
The creature laughed at him, Rama’s mouth blackened and foul, “You don’t have the power to kill me, boy.”
“Kill you? I’m not going to kill you,” Nathaniel said with a smile that bordered on cruel. He closed his eyes and dropped his sword, raising his hands parallel to the floor. In his right hand, the symbol of fire glowed brilliant red-orange. In his left, the bright blue of water sprang to life. When his eyes opened again the jade green of his eyes was replaced by glowing white like Sora’s, his forehead adorned with the symbol of air. At his feet the emerald green of earth formed radiating outwards from him to envelope the bloody circle that contained the dark creature that had possessed his father. “Nearly twenty years ago my father began a bloody conquest, his armies ravaging the land and the people. To some it looked like the pillaging of conquest, a war of domination… but I’ve been studying your methods and plotting his route. He didn’t attack the nearest kingdoms first, or the weakest. He chose to carve a bloody, brutal path in a very specific way… etching a crest of blood and violence across the land. Hidden in plain sight, the largest channeling spell I have ever seen. I don’t think he ever knew why, but he defied his advisers and executed any general who protested, his methods growing every more violent and brutal.”
The creature glared at Nathaniel through his father’s eyes, deep hate burning in them like smoldering coals. “I don’t know how you infected my father, though I suspect it started as a tiny seed. A lust for power, a desire to control, a thirst for domination. Either way, in time he was no longer in control of his own thoughts. Eventually you overwhelmed him and assumed control of his body and thus his addiction to dragon’s blood became your lifeline from the underworld to this one.”
“Are you going to talk me to death?” the demon taunted him. “Is that your grand plan? It might actually work.”
“No, I’m giving them time. Time to feed off of the energy my binding circle is drawing from you. Time to cross the gap. Time to exact their vengeance.” Nathaniel brought his hands together and the lit symbols extinguish, except for his eyes. “I am t he rage of the ancients and the hand of the Angel of Death. Diael Grey sends his regards,” Nathaniel concludes as the air around him warps and twists, spectral images appearing one at a time, then two, then ten; the room filling with ghosts of a thousand thousand dead. Soldiers, farmers, women, children, innocents of every walk of life appearing around the the circle of Nathaniel’s blood. “I know I can’t kill you, demon, but they can.”
He watched as fear appeared for the first time in the demon’s eyes and the mocking tone turned to pleading. “Wait. Nathaniel, I can make you great! Powerful! The nations of Gaia will kneel at your feet. Women will throw themselves into your arms. Your coffers will flow with gold and jewels. Release me and everything you ever desired can be yours!” The ghosts of the dead remained still and unmoving, waiting for Nathaniel to make his choice. He turned and looked at the obscured, prone form of Sora, the demon sensing his weakness and pressing him. “I can make her love you. I can make her yours, body and soul. She could sit at your side as your queen for a millennium…”
Nathaniel turned and looked at the spectral faces around him, blank stares meeting his glowing white eyes, there standing beside Sora was the face he longed to see the most. Arianna. He crossed through the sea of ghosts, their bodies fading in his wake. She stood there, blank and empty, an echo. A memory. Nathaniel reached out to her and as his fingers caressed her ethereal face it faded, returning as he withdrew his hand. “Can you bring back the dead?”
“Yes! She too could be reborn, your lover returned to your side, imagine it!” the demon haggled.
“How about all of them?” Nathaniel asked, sweeping his arm to indicate every ghost in the room. Thousands upon thousands, floating there waiting.
The hesitation was evident, but the demon nodded, the skin around his father’s eyes cracking and splitting now, black ooze leaking from the cracks. “Yes, yes. We could bring them all back! Your kingdom would eclipse the Three Nations! You could rule a mighty empire of man! Think of it. Nathaniel Nis’al, the first human emperor!”
Nathaniel looked back at his sister and saw the terror in her eyes. He gave her a small comforting smile before turning to the demon, staring into its eyes from across the room, though a cloud of ghostly images. “Can you return our mother to us?”
“Yes! Anything you desire.” The demon looked very frightened now the sword still clenched in its cracked and oozing hands. It was falling apart and Nathaniel knew that his father was long dead.
“My desire is your end,” Nathaniel said without pity. “I”ll leave you to the mercy of the tens of thousands of innocents you murdered.”
“Wait! Don’t you want to know why?” the demon was stalling for time and Nathaniel knew it. The longer he gave it, the more likely it would find a means of escape.
“You’re trying to break the Silver Seal,” Nathaniel answered, smiling at the demon’s look of sudden consternation, “but I’m going to stop you.” He raised his hands to the myriad of ghosts that were suddenly much closer to the binding circle, “We’re going to stop you.” Turning his back to the demon he knelt beside Sora, whose eyes were open now, streaming with tears as the ghosts one by one invaded the binding circle the demon’s screams of rage and agony echoing through the throne room. “We don’t want to stay here for this,” Nathaniel says with a smile. “Can you stand?”
“I’m not as hurt as I look,” Sora answers him as he helps her to her feet.
“You had me worried there,” his sibling says angrily. “That wasn’t funny.”
“I wasn’t trying to be,” he said calmly as they all hobble out of the throne room where swarms of blank-faced ghosts drift into the binding circle, filling it with white mist. The demon clawed and screamed at them, falling apart limb by limb. The sword Nathaniel named The Dragon’s Wrath falls to the ground with a clatter but Nathaniel was in no hurry to retrieve it. Doing so now could provide the demon an avenue of escape. “I needed to give the vengeful ghosts time to gather, to hear the depravity of the demon. I wanted them all to know that it would sacrifice all of them for a chance at power.”
“What happens now?” Sora asked him, turning her face from the carnage behind them. Her eyesight was sensitive to magic and the sight of the demon being dismembered was more horrific than anything she could put into words. Each ghost was devouring a portion of the demon, like an army of ants devouring a carcass.
“We,” the demon managed to gasp out, “we… are Legion,” it raged as it was destroyed, bit by bit. “We… will… be… free.” The face of what remained of his father was the last thing to go, the mouth and eyes slowly devoured by the white, swirling mist. “Soon…”
Nathaniel, Sora and Annalise collapse on a low, decorative bench outside of the throne-room, hanging on to one another as though they were drowning. Too spend to speak, too tired to move on, they huddled together for what felt like hours before a soldier dressed in the garb of Nathaniel’s Dragon Slayer Regiment approaches, kneeling before them with his fist over his heart.
“My Lieges, the Dragon Slayers await your command.”
Nathaniel sighs heavily and smiles tiredly at Sora, “No rest for the weary.”