Strive for the Light

Submitted into Contest #181 in response to: Write about someone who realizes they're on the wrong path. ... view prompt

23 comments

Fantasy Fiction Sad

    James wept more than he has ever done in his life. A life so full of happiness quickly taken away by the evils of the land.

           “If I was only there to protect you,” he said of his wife, Rene, as he looked at the mound of dirt. “I could have protected you or at least gone with you to the afterlife.”

           It was two weeks ago that James left his cabin and his lovely wife in the woods to go to a small village for supplies. Usually, his wife went with him, but she was feeling ill that day.

           “I will be all right,” she told him, showing him her beautiful smile. “There have been no orcs or goblins or any other ones with evil intent in this area for many years.”

           “I know, but I still dislike leaving you alone,” he said, stroking her long, red hair.

           “You will be back before you know it.”

           James gave Rene a kiss. Their last kiss.

           He galloped to the village and gathered the needed supplies, then he hurried home. From a distance, he could see more smoke flowing up into the sky than normal. He pushed his horse harder and eventually came upon a sight that crushed his heart, for his cabin was in flames. James jumped off the horse and rushed to the cabin, praying his wife was not inside. James cared not about the flames licking at him as he entered, and his fear became reality as he saw Rene lying on the bed. James quickly grabbed her and rushed outside. He was numb to the burns he had received as he carried his wife a little way before lying her on the ground. He prayed to the Maker that she was still alive, but quickly realized she was dead. Seeing the wounds on her body, it was not the smoke and flames that took her life. The wail of a man who feels like his heart is pierced over and over penetrates the quiet forest.

           Now in the present, he moves on through life in a daze. Staying at an inn half of the time while the other half sleeping on the forest floor. James did his best to stay away from anyone. He looks with disgust as he sees people happily moving on with their lives.

           “I’m in misery,” he thought. “All of you are ignorant about thinking life is a joy.”

           He thought the same once of joy.

           “You have failed me,” he says as he looks up at the cloudy sky. “They preach of your goodness and how you want goodness in all our lives. That is not so. Who is really in control? Not you, mighty Maker.”

           James’s soul is full of darkness as he trudges through life. Every day, he is oblivious to his surroundings as he either walks or rides through the forest.

           He is into the third week of losing his wife when he starts down a path that he has never gone down. He does not realize he has done so until he is a way into the path. His mind has already gone down unfamiliar territory, so why not his physical self? He can care less where the path takes him.

           James is not far down the path when he hears growling to his left and right. Next moment there are half a dozen orcs on the path, holding rusty swords and axes. What the orcs did not realize is that James was in the Dark Wars before he met Rene, and many of his companions were amazed by his berserker rage. James gets off his horse, gets into the mode, adding the rage of losing his wife into his fighting preparation. Chances are it was orcs who took his wife.

           The orcs advanced toward him as James slaps the horse to have it gallop off as he raises his sword. The orcs hesitate as they see this human is not cowering or trying to run away. Moments later, the sword sings, and the orcs drop. The ones still living look in shock as their companions are cut down, then a couple more swings to make sure they stay down. The last two orcs try to run away, but James ends both of their lives. He then drops to his knees in exhaustion and screams up at the sky for he felt no better about his life. He stays on his knees for some time before he looks at his hands, arms, and chest to see orc blood is covering him.

           “I need to bathe,” he mutters.

           He looks around but does not have a clue where water could be, having gone on a path he has never travelled.

           “I could be lost like everything else in my life,” he thought.

           “Are you looking to bathe?” a wizened voice asks from behind him.

           James turns and sees an old man, half his height, standing there wearing a raggedy cloak. He stands up and turns to the old man.

           “What are you doing out here on this path?” he asks. “As you can see, it can be quite dangerous.”

           “I have been on this path many times,” the old man says as he shuffles toward James. “I know where there is a pond to bathe.”

           “Lead the way, but I should get my horse first.”

           “The horse is already at the pond. Quite thirsty, she is. You have been running her hard.”

           “I have?” James says, not realizing his cruelty toward his only companion.

           “You have lost your way and walked the path of darkness. Time to give you a cleansing.”

           James did not know what to say as he follows the old man. 

           “I see you have experienced a significant loss?” the old man asks.

           “I lost my wife recently.”

           “I am so sorry to hear of such. It is during your time of grief to turn to the Maker.”

           James chuckled. “Are you joking? The Maker did nothing to stop my wife’s murder.”

           “Did you ask?”

           “Huh? What are you talking about?”

           “Humanity has abandoned the Maker in so many ways. Humanity thinks they can do so much better. The results are what you are going through. Did you have a relationship with your Maker, or did you just go through life knowing there was a Maker, but rarely conversing? Truly little thanks, and when you spoke it is just to condemn the Maker.”

           “I spoke to the Maker without condemnation. You do not need to lecture me.”

           “I lecture you, for I have also gone down the wrong path, and know the outcome,” the old man says. “If you would have continued on the path, you would have come across a dragon’s lair.”

           “Good. Finish my life so I can see my wife.”

           “I am not one to judge, but are you sure you will see your wife? Are you sure you will go to the same place?”

           James looked at the old man with a questioning look.

           “Are we almost there?” James asked.

           “Around the corner.”

           A few more steps and the pond appear. James did not care if the old man is watching as he strips off his clothes and jumps into the pond.

           “Oh my,” he thought. “This is so refreshing.”

           He heard his horse snicker to his left, seeing his steed by the edge.

           James washes away the blood and dirt from his body. As he cleans not only does his body feel cleaner but also his thoughts. The darkness is leaving his mind. The pain is leaving. The anger is leaving. Next moment, tears are flowing as he realizes he had gone down the wrong path in his grief.

           He lay in the pond as his mind clears and his body washed clean. Eventually, he gets out, realizing the old man is gone. James cleans his clothes, relaxes some more by the pond, then dresses, eats, and gets on his horse. He looks around and sees a path that leads to familiar surroundings in the distance.

           “Time to go on the right path,” he says.

           James moves on. A scar forever on his heart but strives to always be in the light.

January 20, 2023 01:11

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23 comments

Yvone Mthembu
11:42 Jan 20, 2023

Good to see the Legends are still around Dear friend

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Corey Melin
15:36 Jan 20, 2023

Yes indeed. Writing to Reedsy ever so often to hear from people. Many are gone once they started charging $$. Take care

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Lily Finch
02:52 Jan 20, 2023

Corey, great story. I liked how James learned and was able to wash off the darkness figuratively and literally. Nice symbolism and a great message. The old man is the catalyst for change and the pond is how he changes. Thanks for the read. LF6

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Corey Melin
15:33 Jan 20, 2023

Thank you for the comments!

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MJ Simons
05:17 Mar 01, 2023

This beautifully written story reminds us not to allow our circumstances to lead us down the wrong path in life. The Lord exists and He wants a relationship with us, not just to be known. You covered several great points of conversation here. I like how you used the forest, ogres, and cleansing symbolically. Nicely done!

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Roger Scypion
23:25 Feb 03, 2023

Fantastic story! So many parables, great writing! The Maker analogy and James re-establishing his goodness is poetic.

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Fomichi Fomichi
12:41 Jan 26, 2023

Hey Corey! I like the tempo and dialogues. The atmospere and symbolism are also well thought out. Even though I love fantasy there are something that I consider cliche. The pattern "death wife", relationships between James and the Old man and the name "James" Moreover, orcs and village is also a quite common set. Would be nice to see somebody new in the fantasy world or an unexpected behaviour of creatures. Maybe it is just my perspective: I did not believe what the author said. "The darkness is leaving his mind" Yet I never felt this darkne...

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Corey Melin
15:44 Jan 26, 2023

I understand that much of it is cliche, but there is always new readers. With limited time it’s sometimes tough to expand on the character. The only parts of telling is him going thru his days without a care and overkill of the orcs.

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Alec Riley
06:56 Jan 25, 2023

Nice, Corey. I personally like the old man character as he seems like a Yoda/Obi-wan mentor. Whether or not he existed at all is up for debate, I guess!

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Corey Melin
14:43 Jan 25, 2023

At the time of writing I wasn’t really thinking of Yoda but after I proofread I could see the Yoda

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Mary Ann Ford
15:09 Jan 24, 2023

What an imagination! Do you believe in such things as orcs and goblins?

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Russell Mickler
14:39 Jan 24, 2023

A good read! I liked the vivid description of the burning home and James' response to finding his wife. I don't know who or what the creepy small fellow was, but he sounded a little like Dungeon Master from the 80's D&D Cartoon :) Aside from the cool D&D moments, also liked the spiritual cleansing/renewal at the end. A good read - thank you! R

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Corey Melin
21:18 Jan 24, 2023

Thank you for the comments. I forgot about the DM from the D&D cartoon. I heard they are coming out with new ones. Anyway, I was thinking of movies and stories where it seems like the little person was full of wisdom

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Edward Latham
21:45 Jan 23, 2023

Wish there were more fantasy stories like this on here! A story that makes you ponder, nice work Corey

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Corey Melin
02:00 Jan 24, 2023

Thank you for the comments!

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S N
05:17 Jan 22, 2023

It is so sad how tragedy can cause one to loose sense of themselves and it is always a gamble to give in to those darker parts of humanity because you may not be able to get out. I am happy that this character eventually does. Its a wonder what he will do in moving forward on a new path.

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Wendy Kaminski
23:47 Jan 21, 2023

Hey, Corey, I really enjoyed this! As a long-time gamer, of course the fantasy and battle elements appealed to me immensely, but you got some really good ones in there, particularly the message of the metaphorical "wrong path" and how it lined up with his real-life actions. "Did you ask?" was so perfect, and of course applicable to us today, as well (possibly more than ever). I loved these lines: - “You have lost your way and walked the path of darkness. Time to give you a cleansing.” - “I lecture you, for I have also gone down the wrong pat...

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Corey Melin
00:31 Jan 22, 2023

Thank you for the comments. Fantasy has always been my highest likes. Read, write and watch all the time. I was one of those D&D players (even though my parents didn’t like it). This is a standalone even though I have used a Yoda type character in other stories

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Graham Kinross
12:27 Jan 21, 2023

Was the old man a physical or visual manifestation of the Maker? This has a lot in common with the spiritual elements of your previous story. About people on the wrong path, except your MC here got to redeem himself.

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Corey Melin
14:58 Jan 21, 2023

Yes indeed. I have been putting out stories to hopefully help ones that might need to read such a story. For me it’s not so much about the contest

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Graham Kinross
00:23 Jan 22, 2023

I’m the same. I don’t seem to have a style that the judges like but the feedback and personal growth here on reedsy is worth it. I’ve learnt a lot and made some great friends.

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Corey Melin
00:37 Jan 22, 2023

Learning is very important! I have heard from good friends of areas I need improvement. I would probably have around 125 stories on Reedsy but took a chunk off.

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Graham Kinross
01:04 Jan 22, 2023

At some point I’ll take some of mine away. It’s nice to see them all and to see the improvement in my writing since the first few though.

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