WEP August - Change of Heart

So I actually wrote this piece for April's WEP, but I was ill so didn't get to post it in the end. I'm quite glad, as it suits this month's theme so much more.



Change of Heart

‘Are you ready for this?’ Paul asked.
Brian nodded, trying to steady his shaking hands.
‘You’re the only one who can defeat him,’ Molly said. ‘We believe in you.’ She stepped back to join Paul.
Brian balled his fists as he looked at the huge stone doors before him. He took a deep breath and pushed them open.
Before the doors closed, Brian glimpsed Paul and Molly turn and begin to walk away.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. With a whispered word he created light in the palm of his hand, raising it so it would light up the room. It was empty apart from another doorway, much smaller than the first, hidden away in the corner. Brian marched through it and found himself in a large chamber, lit by many flickering candles mounted along the walls. Someone stood at the end of the room, shrouded in shadow, turning to face Brian as the door creaked shut.
‘You’re here at last,’ he said. ‘I’ve been waiting for you, the hero of the hour.’
A bead of sweat ran down Brian’s temple. ‘Well I’m here now.’
‘I thought you’d come much sooner. All those people you could have saved…’
Brian scowled. ‘You won’t hurt anyone else. I won’t let you.’
‘How very heroic of you, but it seems you don’t understand. You can’t defeat me. You won’t stop me. This needs to happen. All those people that died, they had to. This world doesn’t work, not the way the Council runs it.’
‘And I suppose you could do a better job?’
The man smirked. ‘I already am. Not only am I the most powerful sorcerer in this world, I know exactly what needs doing to fix it, and I’m the only one willing to take the required steps.’
‘And that involves killing innocent people?’ Brian raised his hand, and a flame appeared in his palm. ‘I don’t need to hear anymore. You’re insane.’
He threw the fireball, but the man deflected it easily. ‘I told you, you can’t defeat me.’
‘I can,’ Brian said, summoning another fireball. ‘I’m the only one who can defeat you, who can stop this.’
The man starting laughing, his voice echoing off the stone walls so it sounded like there was a crowd of people laughing in the empty room.
‘Oh yes, the prophecy.’ He said. ‘I heard about that. A tad convenient, don’t you think? A prophecy saying that you, an orphan with no real family who just so happens to be an extremely gifted sorcerer, are the key to defeating me.’
‘What do you mean?’ Brian said.
‘Does it mention you by name?’ The man said, raising an eyebrow.
‘Well no, but-’
‘Then it could apply to dozens of boys. Why you?’
Brian was silent.
‘Ah, I see. The prophecy made you feel special, so you didn’t even bother to question it. I hate to tell you this boy, but you’re being used. The Council, who you love so much, and would apparently die for, are using you to clean up their own mess.’
‘I don’t care what you say,’ Brian said, his nails digging into his palm. ‘I’ve come here to stop you, and that’s what I’m going to do. There are people counting on me.’
‘Has it ever occurred to you that I’m doing this for a reason? That maybe I’m not just some insane, power-hungry sorcerer? As I’ve already tried to tell you, I’m trying to make this sorry excuse for a world a better place.’
‘I still don’t see how killing people is supposed to help you with that.’
‘Some sacrifices are necessary. Why don’t you ask your dear Council about the real cause of the rebellion? The real reason the war started in the first place? How many innocent lives they’ve sacrificed?’
‘You’re lying,’ Brian said, his mouth dry. ‘You started the war and the rebellion, all because you wanted power-’
‘I won’t deny that I love power, but there are two sides to every story. Maybe I started the rebellion, but I’m not the one who caused it. Nobody chooses to follow the Council; they do because they must. We all know what happens to those who openly defy the Council; my rebels choose to follow me. I’ve caused many deaths, but at least I’m honest about it. How many deaths do you think the Council have caused, and blamed on somebody else? The truth is, the death count wouldn’t have been nearly as high if it weren’t for your dear Council.’
He took a few steps towards Brian, moving out of the shadows and into the light. Brian raised the arm holding the fireball.
‘You can’t defeat me. Powerful as you are, it isn’t enough. They invented that prophecy so someone would do their dirty work for them, as they’ve done countless times in the past, and they chose you. Join me. Together, we would be more powerful than anyone. We could stop the Council’s tyranny, end the wars, make this world a better place.’
Brian thought of Molly and Paul, his so-called best friends, safe and out of harms way, never offering to lend assistance, always happy to let him endanger himself alone. He thought of the Council, who had trained him ceaselessly since birth, all so he could defeat the man standing in front of him, telling him it was his duty to save the world. He thought of all the times the Council had used him, all the times they’d made it clear that they didn’t care whether he lived or died.
Brian stepped forwards, the fireball on his palm vanishing.
‘Are you sure?’ The man asked. ‘Once you cross over, there’s no turning back.’
Brian shrugged. ‘You’re right. I don’t want to be another one of the Council’s puppets. Time to choose my own way.’
The man grinned widely, and held out his hand. Brian reached out and shook it.

Word count 997: FCA

Comments

  1. Yay Brian. Not only a hero, but a thinker. I do love reading the 'flip-side' to familiar tales. Questions which have often beset me.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful take.

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  2. I hope you're feeling much better!
    This is a great entry and would have worked for April's - Road Less Traveled. Very interesting story and I too wonder where it'll take him.

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  3. Hi Laura - yes I hope you're feeling better and will remain so. That's great he had a change of heart and realised the other side was where he should be ... Well told - cheers Hilary

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  4. I was hoping that Brian wouldn't give in to the man. I saw the stranger as deceptive and evil. It reminded me of Judas in the Bible who found out there was not turning back after betraying Jesus.

    I was very much engaged until the end.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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  5. The truth that hides
    within my soul
    it's for me alone
    I've Been Told
    the truth through
    my eyes I see
    yet will it be the right
    Truth for me

    A great story where one must learn to walk their own path

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  6. Did not expect the ending. Good job. Interesting twist.

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  7. Did he betray or make the right choice? Tough call!

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  8. This story raises more questions than gives answers. I'm left wondering: who is lying, the Council or the sorcerer. Or maybe both, because they both want to use Brian. That man has a tough road in front of him. I hope he'll find his own path.

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  9. Twisted logic could bring anyone around as there is always a sliver of truth. May have made the right choice, or not.

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  10. Laura, I hope you are in full health now and continue to be. We missed you, selfishly. It's great to have you back again and writing an intriguing story. I confess, and judging by other comments, that this story can be interpreted in different ways. I'm rooting for Brian, so I hope I'm applauding the right team, LOL! Loved the ending. I don't envy Brian his path from here. Maybe we'll hear more about him through WEP extracts

    Thanks for posting to the challenge!

    Denise

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  11. I enjoyed this take on the prompt. Nice twist at the end. I like that it's not clear whether he's making the right choice or not, but at least he's not acting blindly. Great story.

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  12. I enjoyed the take on the prompt. A classic style fantasy tale, where the line between good and evil is clearly blurred. Great story.

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  13. Interesting point of view. We can't assume all is black or white and even the enemy sorcerer has a side to his story. Need to make up our own minds and not follow blindly.

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  14. Very interesting and I like the ambiguity and the partial reveal. The reader isn't sure who's the good guy - the Council or the sorcerer. And is Brian being duped or is he the saviour? Every story has multiple sides to it. Great take on the prompt.

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  15. Valid question presented here, but who knows if he ultimately made the right choice, or was fooled by someone else?

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  16. Ooh, I like this! I'd love to see the backstory, and what happens next. I hope he's made the right decision!

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  17. I love that Brian stopped to consider whether he was on the right side at all. It's clear he's been used, but did he make the right choice in switching sides? It's impossible to say, but I'm glad to see him actively make a decision here. I love how you challenged the chosen one trope here. Well done!

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  18. I wonder if switching sides is the right choice?
    He may have been used by the Council... but what if he's about to be used again?
    I suppose he'll find out soon enough.
    At least he made a conscious decision; unlike the fact that from birth, he had been groomed in preparation for this exact moment... wow.
    Great story!

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  19. Well I didn't expect that ending. An interesting take on the theme, I'm still dithering as to whether he made the right decision.

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  20. Neat twist on fantasy tropes and well-written. When Paul and Molly turned away at the beginning, I had my doubts about them as true friends - it was if they expected him to die, or solve everything on his own. Perhaps he has, Clever change of heart - and a lesson for all that depend on trained puppets. Or has he been bewitched? Tune in next time?

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  21. Wow. That's turning the prophecy cliche on its ear. A good twist, an unexpected change of heart. Nice work.

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  22. Oh, this was great. I don't know if Brian made the right choice, seems like the sorcerer has a velvet tongue, so to speak. I hope he hasn't just made things worse. Nice fantasy atmosphere and seems like a slice of a longer story that I'd like to read.

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  23. Sorry I'm late getting around, but I sure liked your story. At first I thought this sorcerer might be Satan himself, but I hope not, or that handshake could seal Brian's fate. An interesting change of heart - but heroes come in all sorts. Some are true to their cause and some can flip if the other side looks better. I wondered if the guy Brian was talking to used his powers to sway his feelings? A great take on the prompt!

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  24. Gotta love a good twist at the ending... Well done! Was not expecting that at all!

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  25. Nice twist ending--and we may never know if he made the right choice, either! I mean, the Council does sound kind of dubious. I'm glad Brian is thinking it through on his own, anyway, even if he gets it wrong (and I kind of think he might be right).

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  26. Interesting twist at the end. Well-written.

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