From Wilted to Rose

The world is not meant for people like me, so I changed it. I wilted flowers, corrupted the soil, and buried the sun in a sea of woeful clouds. In my heaven of hell, I used distasteful black magic to turn the land around me into my own grim reality, and I forced those around me to feel how I felt. I remember the feeling of standing on the balcony of my tower as I gazed upon my new world, feeling the deathly chill breeze upon me.

To keep the unfortunate residents of my domain in check, I conjured armies of evildoers and monsters. They struck fear into the people. It made me happy, seeing them suffer. I suffered for so long, and now they got to feel cast out and lost. It was my turn to dangle the fruit of hope above them and yank it away despite their persistent efforts. Many call me cruel, or evil, or any other despicable adjectives. They are my favorite compliments.

It’s been years now, and sunlight has not hit the ground. The curse I set on the land never waivered. I have a routine. I wake every night and broodingly stare over my heartless home. After I am content, I make my way to my throne room in my dark robes to speak with my generals. So far, nothing of note has come up, despite occasionally crushing small rebellions without mercy. However, as of recently they have been speaking of a potential threat on the outskirts of my realm; something apparently related to a small group of goody two-shoes. Still, a problem so far away will easily be dealt with before it becomes an actual threat. I have hoards of monsters at my disposal that can easily dispatch anything. I assigned the head of my goblin warband, General Spuk, to deal with it.

Out of curiosity, I cast a spell to observe the so-called heroes that had marched into my realm. After chanting the necessary enchantments, I fell into a trance, and my vision moved elsewhere. I saw the four individuals trudging through a swampy forest. The first one, leading the group, was a tall, muscular woman wearing a shining silver breastplate and holding a gigantic, golden longsword. Her long blonde hair fell down her back, and she stepped forward with confident strides. Following shortly behind her, though stumbling more than striding, was a shorter man, wearing robes covered in mud and blood. He looked around nervously and chanted a repetitive phrase, which I recognized as a protection spell. Taking up the rear was an androgynous figure, wearing hide armor adorned with pictures of leaves, flowers, and other natural embellishments. They looked around the corrupted forest with distaste, as if its very existence insulted them. The fourth person I almost didn’t notice. I caught her out of the corner of my eye, walking stealthily through the forest. She was moving around the group, seemingly with the intent of surprising anything that may be after them. I was unable to determine much about her. She was too hard to see.

I stared at the group curiously and wondered who these people were and why they were here. However, I knew it did not matter. I would see to that within the next few days – they would either be dead, or insane. As this thought crossed my mind, the nature loving hero looked directly at me with surprise. Immediately, they shouted to the group and the spell caster threw a spell at my spying eyes, banishing me from watching them. I laughed to myself. These foolish idiots thought they stood a chance against me. They had the audacity to counter my spell. I planned to rain hellfire down on them. They will suffer for their insolence.

I expected these ants to not be my problem once General Spuk dealt with them, but to my surprise five days later, I received news that my goblin army had been decimated. I met with my advisors, including the general, as quickly as possible. I walked into the meeting chamber, which was decorated with black silks and bones and I, with silent anger, walked over to my throne. I sat down slowly and let the silence roar.

Eventually, I spoke. “Tell me, please, how hundreds of goblins, my goblins, were killed by four people.”

No one spoke.

“Someone explain it to me, please. I’m curious.”

After a long moment, General Spuk stood up to speak. “My lord, our enemy was stronger than we thought. One of them, the woman leading them, smote our forces with a golden light. Our blades bounced off of her. And their mage summoned bolts of lightning and firestorms! We simply weren’t prepared for them. Not to mention, the other two. One of them, I swear to the gods, transformed into a bear, ate a goblin whole, and then suddenly had wings and plucked another into the sky to drop him. And the other one, we couldn’t even see them. Arrows just flew out of the bushes before we could do anything!” The general panicked as he gave his description, stuttering and stumbling over his words. I grew tired of watching his fear.

“So, General Spuk, you are telling me that the reason my goblins are dead is because you failed. Is that correct?” I followed each word with a pause to let the fear settle. “Do you think I will tolerate failure?”

“No, my lord, I just meant that-”

“Leave my tower, and do not return until you have those four idiots’ heads on pikes! Do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand. I will be back, sire, with their heads, I promise!” He immediately ran out the door, almost tripping over his own feet in the process. I looked around the gloomy chamber and saw fear masked as discomfort over my other advisors’ faces.

“What other news is there?” I asked them. My head mage, Kethrak, responded.

“Well, lord, we have concocted a plan to deal with the heroes. We believe it best to stage a tactical ambush using your magic-”

“No,” I interrupted. “General Spuk will deal with that problem. In fact, it’s barely a problem. Merely an annoyance. Now, if there is nothing of actual importance to discuss, I will be taking my leave. Run my kingdom grimly while I rest, please. Otherwise, your heads will adorn the ceiling of the new ballroom.” I turned around and confidently walked to the door. My cape swished behind me dramatically, as if blown by a wind even though I was completely indoors.

In honesty, I am concerned about these heroes. They slaughtered so many goblins with magic that even I had to respect. However, even though they may be a pain, I know if worse comes to worse I will simply kill them myself. Ever since I reached my position of power, I preferred to avoid getting my hands dirty, but I can channel powerful black magic when necessary. If these heroes make it here, they will definitely regret it once they see what I am capable of for themselves; but that’s never going to happen, my servants will deal with them swiftly.

A few days pass without a problem. I pass the time with normal, mundane activities, such as practicing necromancy and summoning thunderstorms over innocent villages while I wait for information to arrive on the heroes. In my boredom, I decide to yet again cast a spell to observe the approaching party. My vision flies over my domain until I am watching what appears to be a battle. A group of goblins, led by General Spuk, descended on the heroes. Weapons clashed and spells flew. I focused on the conflict between the human leader and Spuk, who had engaged in hand to hand combat. Spuk had the upper hand. He moved nimbly around her with quick strikes she barely had time to block. She attempted to put pressure on him, but failed to as Spuk slowly wore her down. Everything was going perfectly, until a random arrow flew out of the fray and struck Spuk.

The archer’s strike was not lethal, but it turned the tide. The warrior swung right at him, and now Spuk was on defense. With his mobility limited, he struggled to stand against her heavy blows and eventually was knocked to the ground. The warrior raised her sword high, and with a golden glow in her eyes brought it down on top of him with a divine strike. The other goblins either fled upon seeing their leader’s death, or were mopped up by the other heroes.

I was seething.

I broke my spell and marched to the audience chamber to call a meeting, and my advisors arrived in minutes.

“I swear to all that is unholy, if these brainless fools make it here and I have to deal with them, all of you will suffer immensely. I want them dead by sunset; is that understood?”

“Yes my lord, but, at the risk of speaking out of turn, I believe a better plan would be to recall all of our forces to the tower,” Head mage Kethrak spoke nervously. “That way when the heroes arrive, we can hit them with everything we have all at once. They most likely will arrive here in three days, which will also give us enough time to set up the anti-magic cannons, as well as-”

“I think you misunderstood me, Kethrak.” I spoke his name as if I was dragging it through mud. “I said I want them dead by sunset. So, I ask again. Do you understand?”

“Yes sire,” he said with a gulp.

“Good, get out of my sight.” I turned around and left with my usual dramatic exit. I made my way up to my chambers at the top of the tower. I walked inside the pitch black room and laid down on my bed. Sleep was something I had avoided, but for some reason I had an intense desire to take a nap. I tried to resist the feeling of my head on the pillow and the silk sheets on my skin, but drifted off to sleep.

I woke on a field of dead grass in the woods, twisting trees towering over me. Everything felt hazy, and my body refused to move. I heard whispering around me.

“Emmanuel, is it working? Do you need help?” a tough, but feminine voice said.

“No, no it should be fine,” a man responded, though his voice was soft. “Oh wait, give me the staff. And the wand, I think. Charlotte, where are my crystals?! I told you to stop stealing them. I need them for this.”

“Gods, E, you’re no fun.” A third voice, higher pitched, sarcastic, and presumably belonging to Charlotte, responded. “Fine, here. Keep your eyes open next time and maybe I won’t take ‘em again.”

“Emmanuel, keep the spell going. Zyon, check on the spot, see if he’s there.” The first voice said.

“Already on it,” the final one said. Suddenly, standing over me was a familiar figure. It’s one of the heroes, the androgynous one, wearing the armor decorated with leaves and flowers.

“Yup, he’s here, Astrid.” They said with a smirk.

“Perfect,” she said. In a moment I saw Astrid, the human woman who had killed General Spuk, standing over me with a smirk across her face. “It’s wonderful to meet you, “Steven Cholez.”

I wanted to scream back at her, and destroy her for daring to know and use my old name. Steven was dead. He was weak and pathetic. He let people trample over him. I killed him to become someone who deserved to live. Someone powerful. That someone was me now, Lord Makarvik. Memories of what seemed like a previous life flooded back to me. I remembered begging for bread on the streets, inches from starvation. I remembered being ridiculed and pushed aside, everywhere I went. I felt the pain all over again and wanted to end her for starting it, but I could not. I was still unable to move.

“It’s time we were formally introduced,” she continued. “My name is Astrid Runesteel, and I am here to save this land from your curse. Your evil will thrive no longer. My friends and I are here to make sure of that.” Her smirk was gone, and she stared at me intensely.

“Our mage, Emmanuel, brought you here in your dream. When you wake up, you have two options. One: you surrender to us, end your curse, and we may let you live. Or two: we barge into your tower, find you, and cut you down. I know people like you, Steven. And yes, I will continue to call you Steven. Lord Makarvik is a horrible name; you could have chosen much better.” She paused for a moment to chuckle to herself and I imagined the joy I would feel when I melted her flesh off. “But I know how you think. You are afraid. Anyone who wants power is afraid of the feeling of being weak. You do not need to push everyone down and away to be strong. If anything, you’re making yourself weaker by hiding behind the walls you’ve built. I do not want to kill you, so please think about this. You can be better.”

As she finished, she gestured to Emmanuel, and he ended the spell. I awoke in my bed and simply did not know what to do. My head hurt. I was furious, sad, and confused all at the same time. How dare she use my old name and, worst of all, take pity on me. I do not need her pity. I could end her with a word. However, even though I didn’t want to admit it, some of what Astrid said was true. I did not acknowledge this directly, but in the back of my mind I knew that I was doing things wrong. I felt uncertainty and weakness.


The feeling I was avoiding for so long was now at the forefront of my mind, and all because of a few words. It scared me, so I did what I do best. I went back into my shell. I would not let myself feel weak ever again.

The next few days passed in a blur. I heard the updates. My monsters were being slaughtered, the heroes were getting closer, and they rallied nearby villages to their cause. I do not care. They would arrive and I would kill them.

Preparations had already begun for the battle. The remaining goblins joined ranks with my mages and wild beasts. A protective field was placed around the tower to prevent anyone from entering. My advisors recommended defenses be split evenly around the tower, but I expected the main assault to be at the main gate, so I assigned the most resources there.

Eventually, the approaching force was seen. It was small; the heroes had about 50 townsfolk rallied to their cause, which was nothing compared to what was waiting for them behind my gates. I let them walk up to the gate, but before they reached it, they stopped. Astrid walked a few strides further and put her hand out as if offering it. I contemplated her proposal and what she said, but I responded with a gesture of my own. I snapped my fingers and summoned a lightning bolt that arced around my tower. The thunder boomed, giving her a very audible answer.


I turned to go inside as I heard the battle begin. Steel crashed against steel, explosions blasted, and shouts pierced the air. My armies would handle this. My intervention would not be necessary. Still, as I walked into the throne room and sat upon my grim seat, curiosity got the better of me, and I magically viewed the battle with a spell. The commoners were surprisingly holding their own against my hoards. They reached the gate and tried to break through my protection spell, but without success. Spells and arrows flew over the walls towards them, but they managed to avoid the barrages. I watched for a while, and it hit me.

The heroes were nowhere to be seen.

I moved my magical sight around my tower, and noticed a small hole created in my protection spell on the far side. Someone broke through it. The heroes. I started to connect the dots. As realization hit me, I heard her words.

“Steven, it’s not too late. Please,” Astrid implored. Immediately, I returned my vision to myself and viewed the surroundings. Standing at the entrance to the throne room, directly in front of me, were the four heroes, weapons and spells ready.

“Astrid, we are way beyond any hopes of persuasion,” I countered. “If anything, you should be begging me to spare your life.” Following this statement, I swiftly conjured a wave of necrotic energy and blasted it towards them.

They responded in kind. Astrid charged forward, sword in hand. Zyon transformed into a bear and barreled after with a roar. Charlotte launched an arrow at me and ducked behind a statue, disappearing from sight. I knocked it down with a wave of my hand. Emmanuel launched himself into the air and threw a bolt of lightning at me. I countered it with one of my own, causing a large explosion in the center of the room.

What was sure to be a long fight was just beginning. Astrid berated me in a maelstrom of sword strikes, which I parried with a magic sword I conjured to float around me. I grabbed Zyon with a magical hand and juggled them around the room. Emmanuel and Charlotte were as annoying as they were unpredictable. Charlotte’s arrows kept surprising me, and I barely managed to avoid them. The constant barrage of spells kept on my toes.

Still, I managed to keep the battle in my favor. Zyon proved easy enough to deal with. I used my magical hand to pick him up and chuck him at Emmanuel. Astrid stumbled, and in the second she was vulnerable I launched her back with a vicious blast. Charlotte took a second too long to return to hiding, and I grabbed her with sickly vines and bound her to the floor.

Astrid stood up and looked right at me with a sad look on her face. It confused me, as it was not one of defeat, but as if she were pitying me.

“Emmanuel. Now!” She shouted as she charged toward me again. He had just gotten up from being crushed by Zyon, but he put his hand up to cast a spell. I raised mine to prepare a counter, and an arrow pierced it. Charlotte had untangled herself from the vines while I was distracted. I screamed in pain, and failed to stop Emmanuel, who teleported himself and Zyon directly above me. I dove out of the way still wincing in pain, and landed right in front of Astrid, who took the opportunity. Her sword glowed with a godly light, and she drove it right into my chest with a roar.

At this moment, I realized that after all of this, I was at my weakest moment. I had killed and tortured to never feel this way again, but I had failed. Now I was going to die. I let my walls come down; there was no point in keeping them up any more. I felt the pain, the weakness. I felt horrible. Reality hit me. Everything I had done hurt my conscience more than the sword in my chest. What had I become? I let the tears roll down my face.

“Steven, listen to me, please,’” Astrid begged. I looked at her, and could not tell if the light I saw was her or heaven. “Promise me you will make the right choice this time.”

I did not know what she meant. This time? I was dying. I felt my own blood soaking my clothes. There was no more time. Regardless, I nodded, because I knew if given the chance to, I would never do this again. I would break the cycle I had been a part of. The cycle of hate, fear, and weakness. She nodded back at me, smiling, then to Emmanuel.

The mage approached me and pointed his hand. A green energy filled the air around me. He rotated his hand counterclockwise, and things begin to change. All of the events that just happened played again, but in reverse. My fatal wound, my fight with the heroes, the battle flash, and the lightning that started it flashed in front me. I was standing on my balcony, looking at Astrid with her outstretched hand once again offering me redemption.

I stood in shock for a moment. I felt my chest and there was no sign of injury. I was in disbelief. It took me a moment, but I made my decision. I stepped off my balcony and floated down towards her. As I landed in front of her, she tensed, worried that I might strike, but I saw the hope in her eyes. I looked right at her.

“I know it will never be enough, but I am so sorry,” I said as I began to cry again. She said nothing in response, but grabbed me and pulled me into a hug. I sobbed into her arms, and she held me. There was a silent understanding. After a moment, I left her embrace and turned around to face my tower.

“Begone,” I commanded, and the tower started to crumble upon itself. Everything I had created, my fortress and my armies, was destroyed in a matter of minutes. I look upon the ruins without regret. The heroes now stood behind me, looking at my former domain with me.

In the middle of the former courtyard was a wilted flower. The first ray of sunlight to pierce the clouds in decades landed on that flower, and it bloomed into a beautiful rose.

I hope I’m not too wilted to become a rose again.