Dustin finally stepped through the city gates after hours of wandering through the desert. His skin was dry and irritated from his journey so he made his way to the nearest inn that he could find and paid for a room and as much water as he could afford.
“You’re lucky you didn’t die out there,” the innkeeper remarked. “The heat today has been dreadful.”
“I normally don’t wander the desert, but I was looking for a town that doesn’t exist anymore.”
“Well, you’re a long way from the So’raya crater.”
It was only natural that the innkeeper knew exactly what Dustin was talking about. The sudden destruction of that city still unnerved people even years later. It wasn’t the type of thing to be forgotten and left unmentioned in daily conversation.
During Dustin’s first visit to this world he had fought a great battle that had consumed the whole of So’raya. Having ended up in this same world again, he felt it would only be appropriate to return to the crater and pay his respects to the people that had lost their lives because of him.
“I have no idea where I am,” Dustin admitted with a weak smile. His entire body was fatigued and his mind was weak.
“This is Arata’raya, far to the north of the crater.”
“It was foolish of me to even try to go back there. That would just bring me feelings of sadness and failure.”
“You wouldn’t be the first to dwell on the past. That never ends well. The tragedy of So’raya unfortunately coincided with the disappearance of the evil gods. There are some who think the city was sacrificed to them in exchange for protecting the rest of the world. I think that’s a little disrespectful, but there are new rumors like that surfacing all the time.”
Dustin hadn’t imagined such a legend would spread. It certainly made sense that people might suspect that, but he agreed that it was disrespectful.
“The Corruption has taken human form,” Dustin said. “If he’s defeated, the world might be healed.”
“Now that’s a story I’ve never heard before. Where did you learn about that?”
“From talking flames. I’d like to think they were telling the truth.”
“That desert heat might have gone to your head…”
“It’s taken a toll on me, that’s certain. I think I’m going to go to sleep now. Which way is my room?”
The innkeeper guided Dustin to his room. Once inside, he closed the curtains to block out the sun and sat down on the bed. The blankets were a little rough, but softer than he’d expected. Dustin wrapped himself up in them. Thanks to the water and the relief of finally getting out from under the sun, being wrapped up in fur blankets felt comfortable to him despite the true temperature.
Within minutes, he had descended into the world of dreams. He dreamed of his conversations with the Black Flames and the knowledge they gave to him. He remembered their talks of his birth and his divinity.
And as he descended deeper into sleep, he remembered his time as the leader of the Blood Masters. He had rescued those he deemed to be good and given them power. Then he had abandoned them and failed to protect them.
They awaited his orders no longer. Those who wanted to continue fighting had joined the Archimedes Alliance while the majority dispersed uninterested and dispirited.
It was the biggest failure of his life, the Blood Masters project, and it still haunted his unconscious mind.
Perhaps for good reason.
Wrapped snugly in a small room in the middle of a desert, far from his quest to save the world, Dustin slept peacefully.