So I was recently inspired to write out a short story I had abandoned a while ago, but I wanted to gather some general thoughts on the idea before I got too carried away. Also to anyone who recognizes the later details, that's because I had posted in this sub asking questions about the plot a while back;
The story centers on a young man who learns that he's actually the reincarnation of a legendary hero and is destined to save the world from evil. In typical fantasy-fairy tale manner, a relatively tame call to adventure happens and he sets off to defeat the evil Demon King from destroying the land, accompanied by a group of representatives from each of the ruling races in the land. Along the way, he saves all manner of people and is praised for his heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice. He even manages to get engaged to a Princess, who possesses mystical powers from a witch's curse that he helps her learn to control. So far, everything's pretty honky dory, leading up to the confrontation with the big-bad Demon King.
But in a shocking twist of fate; the Hero loses. Badly. But not to the Demon King; to the much larger, much more sinister Big Bad (a twist that comes later in the story, but connects to the Hero's origin). In fact, the reason the Hero even survives this battle is because of the Demon King; who has been actively trying to fight the true villain. As the world falls into ruin, the Hero's friends die heroically trying to seal the greater evil while the Demon King fakes his death and brings the Hero to a place where he can heal from his wounds (this is done since the Hero can't reincarnate anymore thanks to the true Big Bad's curse). Problem is; it takes a while, and by the time the Hero is revived, it's nearly two-thousand years later. He's also got minor amnesia, but it's more akin to minor breaks in his memory regarding certain things rather than full-on identity loss (ex. He might know his name, but he doesn't remember he's meant to be the Hero's reincarnation, nor the skills he learned on his last journey).
Now in a world ravaged by war and much more hardened then the one he once knew, the Hero must find a way to put an end to the true Big-Bad's scheme, as their minions have been working non-stop to unleash them from their prison. Now joined by the Demon King he once sought to destroy, the Hero sets off on a new adventure while dealing with the consequences of his previous quest, as well as the reality his failure brought upon the people he was supposedly 'destined' to save.
An idea I had along the way was to make the Hero have to sort of come face-to-face with the reality of his failure (ex. his name being disgraced by the people who felt he 'betrayed them' due to a narrative spread by the Bigger Bad's minions, maybe encountering a descendant of an old companion who blames him for their death, etc).
An especially heartbreaking idea came to mind involving his Princess fiancee, who was nearly lynched by her kingdom after they learned of her curse and forced into a life of exile. The curse extended her life, essentially making her immortal, but her hatred and fear of the outside world began to corrupt her mind until she basically becomes a threat the Hero is forced to fight against (thus leading to the emotional confrontation between the two old lovers separated by time and drastically altered from their circumstances).
Tdlr; Happy-go-lucky hero who is reincarnated time after time goes off on a fairy-tail adventure to defeat the Demon King, but finds out they have both been manipulated by a Bigger Bad and is defeated. The world is nearly destroyed, but the Bigger Bad is contained while the Hero is healed by the Demon King. Two thousand years later, the Hero recovers just in time to prevent the near-resurrection of the Bigger Bad and sets off on a quest to do so aided by the Demon King, who has since put aside his hatred for the Hero so they can stop the true threat to their world.
I thought this would be a good idea split into two distinct parts; the first of which is the grandiose classical adventure that goes awry, with the second half being a story about both the Hero and Demon King's redemption through their combined efforts to truly bring about peace and end the cycle of their constant warring. I'm not quite sure how much one would take priority over the other (ex. whether or not the classical adventure should even be written out or simply alluded to while the focus stays on the post-failure quest), but I wanted to throw that out to the wind to see what people here thought about it.
The themes I'm playing with revolve around identity and reality; the Hero thinks because he does all these good things that it inherently makes him a hero, but he doesn't recognize that trying to save everyone while living up to the expectations of a literal legend is much harder than it seems. He doesn't believe he even can fail at first because he was told by the Gods that he was 'the Hero'.
Vice versa with the Demon King; he's always been the big bad threatening the land. His intentions started off noble, but the darkness in his heart took command and made him into a monster with only one thought; attain ultimate power, rule the world. But after centuries of literately the same fight and subsequent failure, more of the Demon King's old self has resurfaced and when he discovered of the manipulation he and the Hero have gone through, he actively works to distance himself from the monster he once was. He struggles with morality, to escape the curse of always being the 'bad guy'. For once, he wants to do the right thing.
But that's where I'm gonna end this blurb. I can go on about this idea, but I'd like to hear what you all have to think about this. Does this concept sound interesting? Which story should I focus on; the first half or the second half (or both, if you think there's potential enough to write out both sides fully)? Are there any thoughts/comments/criticisms that you have you feel might help make this story better? Anything and everything is appreciated!