The Final Flame
By Joya Pariyal
Love can be passionate, but it can also be destructive. The flames of this particular love burn out on the battlefield.
“No…” I breathed out, my eyes widening at the scene unfolding in front of me. Tears slid down my face as I clutched onto my balcony for support. “It can’t be.”
I heard footsteps behind me, but I didn’t need to turn around to know who it was. His low, raspy voice wrapped around me in an unsolicited hug. “Hello, Reyna.”
More tears pushed their way out of me as the smell of burnt flesh choked me. The sound of my name coming from his mouth pierced my heart. I turned to face him and my hand slowly covered my mouth as I took in his current state. Crimson coated his armor, dripped down from his sword and painted his face. Yet the worst part was his sly smirk peeking through, lacking remorse for the carnage behind me.
“Keegan, how could you do this?” I whispered.
He took a step forward, the smirk never leaving his face. “Reyna, this was my destiny. You simply chose to remain blind to it.”
Anger slowly bubbled over my grief. “You told me we would build this kingdom—together.”
A low, sinister laugh erupted from him as he took another step forward. “Don’t you see, Reyna? It was all a lie. Empty promises. An act to keep you unaware of what I was really planning.”
I looked into his amber eyes, not wanting to believe it. All that stared back at me though was a pure hunger for chaos and destruction. I used to look into those eyes and see love—hope even. Every time our eyes locked my heart would race from the passion burning from them. Every time I needed strength his eyes provided me the silent reassurance I desperately craved. How could those eyes be the same ones staring back at me now? How could those eyes now only hold a love for blood and not for me?
The world slipped from beneath me. It was at this moment I knew I truly lost. Not just my kingdom. I lost him. Forever.
But then I looked over my shoulder, and tears found an escape again. Our kingdom—my kingdom—was ruined. Flames engulfed the villages, painting our summer skies a mournful black. The bodies of my people were scattered across the battlefield. Some were still holding onto their last ties to life, crying out for help before Keegan’s men silenced them. Others laid lifeless and held their children close to them, entering the afterlife with their young ones. Bile slowly worked its way up my throat as the realization finally set in. This is my fault. I failed them.
I turned back to Keegan, glaring at him through my tears. His smile never left his face as he crossed over the last bit of distance separating us. I took a small step back, cursing myself for showing yet another sign of fear in his presence. He stepped forward again, backing me against the balcony. Those empty, wicked eyes stared into me as his hand cupped my cheek. Out of habit, I leaned into his touch, savoring the warmth emanating from his hand. Quickly, I reminded myself this touch wasn’t like others. I retracted my face, but his hand moved farther back and snatched my hair, pulling my face back into his touch.
A small cry of pain escaped me, but I forced myself to look up into his eyes. Hatred and disgust lined my voice. “I don’t know who you are anymore. You have no heart.”
He pulled my face closer to his face, his warm breath tickling my skin. His lips grazed my cheek as he said, “I never did, my love.”
Everything I was holding in bubbled out of me. How could this be the same man I loved and cared for? “So, everything was a lie?”
His thumb brushed away the tears flowing down, smearing soot across my cheeks. His other arm kept me up. “Mostly.”
My eyes jerked up. “What does that mean?”
“I did love you, Reyna.” Through his sinister smirk, I swear I saw remnants of the boyish grin I used to love.
“But if you loved me, then why would you do this? To my people? To our people? To me?” I punched his chest, raising my voice with each word. I knew my punches were useless. Keegan’s strength was unmatched. But a naïve part of me hoped that each punch would bring his humanity back and he would open up his eyes to the damage he’d done. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the words he said next.
He tipped my chin up and any traces of that boyish grin I noticed earlier were gone. “Because I love bloodshed more.”
The world slipped from beneath me. It was at this moment I knew I truly lost. Not just my kingdom. I lost him. Forever. “Is this the end, Keegan?”
“I’m afraid so, Reyna.” His cold lips softly kissed my forehead one last time. I didn’t know my fate until I saw the embers building up in his palm. I was to be consumed by his flames as well. His hand never left my cheek as he watched the flames quickly erase me. “Goodbye, my love.”
As much as I love fantasy, I have never attempted to write it. In my mind, it has always required way too much creativity that I don’t possess. Recently though, I read my friend’s short fantasy story she had to submit for one of her classes and became inspired. I figured I needed to step out of my comfort zone for once. Now, this isn’t true fantasy in any way, but this story I feel bridges my comfortable bubble of romance with the tragic world of fantasy in a way that isn’t overwhelming. Music always helps me get into the writing mood, but for this piece I strayed away from my usual soft piano tunes. Since I am really new to this world of writing, I listened to a playlist of strictly epic fantasy music. Picturing scenes I’ve read and watched paired with this soundtrack, I was really able to immerse myself in my writing. The end result is something I am so proud of and can’t wait to expand into potentially a full story.
Joya Pariyal is a 19-year-old college student who has had a passion for writing since she was in the second grade. Besides writing, another passion of Joya’s is South Asian activism. Breaking down barriers and stereotypes, Joya always seeks to advocate and inform people about South Asian culture and social issues. With her writing, she seeks to inform people about South Asian culture through a fictional lens. Sometimes though, she will deviate away from South Asian stories and try her hand at something new to expand her range. Joya dreams of being an author one day with pieces like these.