There was naught to do but engage the enemy, head on. The scouts were captured, the saboteurs destroyed. The archers had been plucked from their perches- places they had been assured were safe. Xulan had no other tricks up his sleeve. His options dwindled, rapidly.
The Demigod Knight of Sol was outmaneuvered, outflanked, and out of his league. The dark, writhing mass before his men was uncountable; it blackened the sky beyond. The chittering and whooping and jeering was debilitating. It unsettled Xulan's warriors, driving some to near tears. Morale slipped in the dusk, down the slope of despair.
A lieutenant approached the great Xulan. Young, both in mind and body, the man knelt before the immortal, briefly, before standing once more, and clapping an arm over his chest. "My Lord." He spoke softly, but intently- the mark of a potential general. Xulan paused in his musings, and glanced at the man.
The warming light which flowed from the half-god Knight had become considerably less welcoming, a reflection of the sorry state of the Immortal's position. He motioned for the lieutenant to speak.
When Xulan deigned not to speak, the young man swallowed his apprehension, and forged ahead. "My Lord, are you sure we can hold this line? The other men…I've heard talk…" He trailed off. Xulan seemed uninterested. The lieutenant's brow furrowed in annoyance. "My Lord, it would reassure us all greatly if you would be speak to the troops."
Xulan looked down at the man, blinking deliberately and carefully. The immortal stood, slowly walking out of the covered area. He fastened his hands behind his back. The demigod glanced side to side, noticing, yet again, the looks of hopelessness, sadness, and fear. Xulan's soldiers had little courage left. The squirming blackness sapped bravery.
"My Lord!" The lieutenant followed, determined to be heard. "I beg you!" He stopped as Xulan's gaze met his own. A kind of warmth and spirit washed over the young man, wiping away his doubts. The relief was palpable. A tear formed in his eye, from the sheer magnitude of the feeling. He saluted, and, without another word, marched off, to spread his newfound morale.
The golden light of valor did not resonate…entirely from within Xulan, of course. A mere byproduct of the Demigod's status- or at least partially. The immortal strode along, with a single intent in mind. He found himself in the center of the soldier's encampment. A crowd had already formed, each man wishing for a bit of miracle.
Xulan moved slowly, deliberately. He gripped his sword, and simple piece inlaid with golden wires. Drawing the blade, he drew upon his flailing reserves, lighting the steel like a beacon. The Knight of Sol stabbed the weapon high into the air. A blast of incredible light erupted from the blade, streaking into the dark sky. The night never stood a chance.
He spoke then. Xulan's face set slightly with determination. "We must." The words were quiet, but they echoed over the camp, the only sound in the night. The words were nothing like the men had expected. Gravelly, deep, and sure. A man's voice. Not a god's. The demigod was just that. A half-human. Nervous and determined, like the rest.
The resulting calm was uncanny. Far from demoralizing the soldiers around, the discovery of equality empowered each with a new resolve. This man, their leader, cared as much as the rest of them. Xulan was no aristocrat warlord, fighting for boredom or fame. He was a Knight, fighting for a princely cause. No uproar took hold, but a gentle wave of resolve rippled through those gathered. Purpose had been reaffirmed. The battle would be fought to the last.
The die had been cast. Swords were sharpened with renewed vigor. Shields hefted without hesitation. This battle would end, this hour. There was to be no more waiting.
Xulan twirled the blade around, and back into its' scabbard. The battle had not yet begun. He replaced his hands behind his back, and strode back to his tent. There was unfinished business to take care of. A simple set of burnished steel armor rested on the war desk. Once weak and unwieldy, the demigod moved with strength, sweeping the plates off the table, and fastening them to his person. The bracers, first- then the greaves, the mail, and finally, the golden chest-piece.
The Knight retrieved his shield from its place on the shelf, slipping the metal piece to its place. Xulan, thus prepared, joined his comrades, on the front line. His golden aura drove back the shadows, bolstering the confidence of all around. The screeching enemy did not halt in the slightest, but combat was no longer a single side. A slaughter had been avoided. A war had been assured.
The hissing and screaming halted. It was time. First one, the three, then ten: the shadows rolled forward, silent as the grave. Xulan stepped forward, increasing in speed as he charged down the slope, leading his men into the fray. His blade seemed to leap from his sheath in an astounding display of skill, with the light itself cutting down the shadows, wherever the rays fell. A hundred dark forms vaporized in the key seconds before the clash.
Xulan was acutely aware of all things, and yet…at the same time, his senses were dulled. He could feel everything, but at the same time…nothing. The pre-battle adrenaline, no doubt. Then the armies collided. One, black and silent; The other, bright and roaring, illuminated by the light of the stars.
Xulan's force fought with steadfast resolve. The field quickly dissolved into hundreds of tiny frays, hacking and slashing at one another. The demigod himself showed his warfare prowess- hundreds of inky creatures fell to the master warrior. The Knight whirled and dance with a blinding light, melting away enemies from yards off. Though the men fought with strength and courage, none could match the immortal.
The shift was gradual, and inevitable. The soldiers of light were pressed back, step by deliberate step. Less men rallied with each call. More black forms poured from the rear. There was no end. Xulan was the last to give ground, but even he could not stem the vicious tide of darkness. He stepped back, once. Then again. His men saw him give ground, however little, and panicked. Only one of them all was immortal.
Xulan considered the options. There were several, but only one would save his people. And that, he reflected, was all that mattered. He nodded to himself, confirming the action he had known would one day occur. He stopped, and turned to face his fearful followers.
For the first time, since Xulan's first spark of existence, a gentle smile floated across his face- the look of one at peace, finally. He raised his sword, giving off another brilliant flash of light. Then another. Then another. The shadows around him disappeared. They stood no chance. But the demigod was not finished.
The immortal continued to pulse with light, steadily beating faster and faster. There was no going back.
The young lieutenant burst from the line, racing up in front of his liege. A single tear streaked down his face, but he said nothing. He had nothing to say. The man wiped the drop from his cheek, and saluted.
Xulan's benevolent smile widened, but only just. He spoke, in the voice of a true god- beautiful, smooth, and kind. "My dear man. You have a wonderful heart within you." The light did not hurt the lieutenant, despite the intense brightness. The shadows screamed silently, fighting against the immortal's assault.
The man bowed. "Th…thank you, My Lord." He looked up, at the majestic being in front of him. It was harder to make out the figure, now.
Xulan's form blurred. Once, twice. Then he reached out, and touched the lieutenant on his forehead. "You will make a noble king, my friend. One worthy of immortal legend. I grant you this…this final, parting gift. Lead these men, in my stead. Protect their families, guard their well-beings. I ask this of you. Do you accept?"
The young man's eyes closed, briefly, as if casting the dice of fate. Then he inhaled, a deep, slow breath, and answered. "I accept."
Xulan, now more a white haze than a humanoid, nodded, and stepped back, crossing his arms. "I trust the fate of our people with you, then. Farewell, noble soul."
The man could only watch, as Xulan closed his eyes, for the final time, and exploded in a blaze of brightness, illuminating the dark with a light that effortlessly seared away the shadows. The army of evil dark was gone in a flash.
The lieutenant fell to his knees. The tears came freely, now. He made no effort to stop them. He asked himself continuously, why? Why should this man evoke such tears? They had barely spoken. Barely met. Why was he so affected?
There was no true answer. There was no logic in these emotions. There was only agonizing sadness, and a horrible loss. They had won, yes, but at what cost?
He would have stayed there for hours upon end, but something jerked him free of his mourning. Light. Not just a torchlight, or a lantern, but a warming light. It was gradual, a slow increasing brightness, but the young man could feel it. It was…getting brighter. What was this?
He looked up. He could see nothing. The tears still blurred his eyes. He wasn't sure he wanted to wipe them away. But the warming light demanded his attention. He could not ignore it. He wiped his eyes clear. And stopped, astonished.
A brilliant sphere-like ball of light rose from the horizon, illuminating the landscape. For the first time, the lieutenant could see without the need of a torch, or the stars. The light had arrived gradually, to avoid blinding any. The young man nearly wept, again. With joy. This magnificent glow wiped away all of his sorrows.
Even then, a wriggling worm of doubt entered his mind. What did they call this, this thing? How could they possible name such a glorious sight?
But a voice, soft and kind, banished the thoughts. This is sunrise, the end of the night. Do not wonder at it. Embrace the light, for it will show you many wonders of the world.
Xulan had returned. Returned for his final dawn.
I liked writing this. I don't know why, I just felt pretty inspired while working. :/
It's sort of how I imagine another group of humans would tell a story about how the sun was formed in medieval times, or something.