War of the Soul

I have to apologize to Tolkien for the following story, as I have indulged in allegory.

It’s not a great story. I don’t read it and think this is the best I have done or can do.

It’s a very, very personal story. It tells what happened to me through the language of fiction and fantasy. After finishing it, I read it multiple times, and every time I ended up in tears, no matter how much I think I’ve healed and moved on.

I never self-harmed physically, but if my psyche could be translated to physical form there would be a huge scar that ran through my center, and a spiderweb of smaller scars spread over the rest of me.


War of the Soul

We were generals, she and I. Generals of opposing armies.

My side fought with faith, holy water and cold iron.

Her side fought with flame and fury.

Every time we met on the plains to battle her forces were lessened, and yet they returned, again and again.

I circled, always trying to force my way through the thick of the fighting so that we could meet, face to face, but somehow our paths would not intersect. I believed this was cowardice on her part. She was afraid to stand before me, afraid of my strength, afraid of my faith.

Our war lasted for fifteen years. We were implacable.

If her forces had equaled ours in number, she might have won.

If my strength of will had been lesser, she might have won.

She drew eyes, and inspired fear, and because they feared, they loathed her.

Flames licked through her hair. Flame spread as wings behind her. Her eyes – her eyes were human, but they burned with the brightest flame of all.

I yearned for her, and hated myself for that. The only way I could escape that yearning was to destroy her. The only way I could be whole, and free, and happy, was to have her dead at my feet.

She threatened my faith, my very soul, with her existence.

I was tired, though. This war had taken its toll on me. I knew I had to destroy her soon, before my strength failed and left me vulnerable.

She must have felt the same.

When we last met on the field of battle her forces were a third of what they had been fifteen years before.

I had taken heavy losses – heavier, perhaps, than she had – but the citadel always sent reinforcements, along with praise and earnest exhortation not to yield, to stand resolute until victory was ours.

She moved forward, signalling to her forces to remain behind. Halfway between our armies she lifted her blade and pointed the length of it at me. It was a challenge.

Her blade was the twin of mine. I did not know how she came by it. Some traitor to the faith, no doubt.

It hurt her to wield it. I was sure that the flesh of her hands was scarred from gripping the pommel. Still she held it, as if she knew that she must wield a blade like mine in order to stand against me in the end.

I had accused her of cowardice, out loud, often enough that I would be seen as a coward myself to refuse her challenge now.

I signalled to my forces to remain behind, squared my shoulders, held my blade at ready and walked to meet her.

I came to a stop with the length of three swords still between us, caught by her eyes.
They were fierce, exultant, and filled with love.

She laughed, joyously, and spun in a circle, like a child in a grassy meadow under the summer sky.

Where her blade pointed a wall of fire rose, encircling us both.

The fire was so thick and so high that I could no longer see our armies. I could only hear the roar of flame and feel the heat wash over me while sweat coated my skin.

I would not be trapped here. I would not fall here. I would not love or be loved by this filthy stain that set itself against the faithful.

With a yell I raised my sword and charged at her.

Remember.

She spoke that word and raised her sword to stop my blow.

Remember me.

Our blades clashed again.

Remember yourself.

My hands ached from the force of my attacks meeting her defense. She was not trying to strike me down with her blade but with her words.

Remember us.

I had delivered a fatal blow, but she stood, unharmed. There was no blood on her blade, only on mine. Yet I was the one that felt the pain of the blow.

I looked down, dismayed, and saw blood, my blood, running down my body.

Tears ran down her cheeks and evaporated with a hiss.

Remember!

It was a scream of rage, loss, pain – and love.


Members of the priesthood had come to my parents while I was still very young. They said I had been born with the fires of evil within me, that those flames could consume me, that my soul must be saved by faith. My parents quailed and asked how I could be saved, how they could help.

I had slipped away when the priests first arrived, and they searched for me and found me in a grassy meadow under the summer sky, spinning in joyous circles.

The priests said first the fire must be bound and subdued. I was struck with a reed, then seated in an iron chair as they poured holy water over my head. The pain was immense but I was told the suffering was necessary to purge the evil within.

The fire was subdued, but not destroyed. The priests said the only one capable of destroying the fire within was the one that housed it.

I had not known the fire I felt inside was evil. I did not want to be evil. I did not want my soul to be taken into the depths of the earth, as all evil things would be taken in the end, there to be locked away until the end of time.

As time went on I began to scourge myself, seat myself in the iron chair, pour holy water over my own head.

I could not destroy the fire within, no matter how hard I tried.

Instead, I found a way to call it forth, to let it take form outside me.

Flames licked through her hair. Wings of fire spread behind her. Her eyes were human and suffering. Lying eyes, I thought, and I drove her away, into the night, determined not to let her return even though I felt so cold and empty inside without her.

When I came of age I joined the armies of the faith. I battled the evil creatures that filled our world, the creatures that wanted to corrupt us so that we would be forced to share their fate and be imprisoned in the bowels of the earth.

The more I fought, the more the memory of her fell away, until she was forgotten. When I became a general for the faith, and found a new general commanding the forces of the opposition, I did not recognize or remember, I simply yearned, and hated myself for it.

Now here I was, bleeding out, because the only way I could destroy her was to destroy myself. I no longer had the strength to hold my weapon and let it drop to the ground.

She threw her blade away and put an arm around my waist so I would not fall.

She – I – we – could not be happy, free and whole without each other.

She asked me to let her return, to join with me, to heal me.

I did not want to die. I would not die.

She became fire and her flame enclosed and filled and healed me – healing not just the wound in my flesh, but the wounds in my heart as well.

She was not evil.

We had never been evil.

I was not evil.

Flames licked through my hair. Fire spread as wings behind me. I looked at the ground and saw that there was only one blade now. I picked it up and felt no pain. I laughed, joyously, and spun in a circle, and where my blade pointed the encircling fire was consumed and drawn within.

I saw the army of the faith spread out before me.

The faith had done this to me.

The faith had set me against myself.

They would have had me sacrifice myself and would have called that sacrifice good.

I felt rage rise within me, and I felt my rage answered from within the very earth itself.

The ground beneath my feet trembled.

The eyes of the army of the faith were on me. They feared me, and because they feared, they loathed me. The one that had been my second-in-command rallied the soldiers, ordered them forward.

The ground under my feet was torn asunder, but my wings held me aloft.

A great split appeared between my forces and the forces of the opposition. They faltered, stilled, cried out.

Molten rock pushed and bubbled to the surface of the earth as the gap widened.
The soldiers closest to the edge were swallowed, consumed.

The army of the faith turned and fled.

The ones that waited at my back, the ones like me, quietly withdrew, returning to those places we had claimed as our own.

By the time the sun had descended to the horizon I stood on a peak of the mountain range newly born beneath my feet.

Streams of molten rock could be seen wending their way down the slopes, still, but I knew that some day, those slopes would be covered with green grass.

Some day, I would return and spin for joy in grassy meadows under the summer sky, but for now – for now I would rest.

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