Indeed he is a natural talent but unlike her, his affinity is for the blade. Years of training have honed his aptitude and grueling experience has tested his steel. As his understanding of and connection to the Weave grows his swordsmanship exponentially accelerates. Within two months he’s as fast as I am and almost as strong. Within four he has surpassed my martial ability in every capacity. By the end of our time in here I suspect that he should be a worthy challenger to any of the great sword masters of the order.
Of course I had him construct his own star saber. He chose the blue blade of the guardian. It suits him perfectly.
While our training and her connection to the Weave has allowed her to supersede the prowess of the great knights of her time, the Queen has no love for the blade. Her growth comes in glorious magnitudes and breadth of skill in which she can manipulate the Weave. Powerful telekinetic waves and grips, advanced precognition, and masterful manipulation of fire. She even has a burgeoning talent for telepathy.
Their training goes magnificently well. Everything else does not. One year is a very long time to be spent in isolation with only two other people. When there is tension there is no escaping from it. When there is a misunderstanding there is no distance to put between you and them. When emotions arise there is no distraction from them.
I am a grey and as such I take from both the Light and the Dark. I do not discourage attachment or emotional experience. Only by exploring one’s emotions may you know them, may you command them. Willful ignorance cannot achieve balance. However, this experience has developed an understanding on the Order’s prohibition on romantic attachment.
Though their affection for one another is powerful and primal, the isolation draws their differences into sharp contrast. Truly they are ice and fire. Over the course of months their passions for one another drift apart. This breeds resentment and begets anger. It serves her well but him ill. The Queen’s affinity for the Dark allows her to focus her hurt into power while the Bastard’s affinity for the Light saps his strength.
Unable to reconcile his pain or turn his attention toward a larger threat, he turns his rage towards me. Though it does empower him, I fear it comes at great peril; for he is naturally averse to the Dark. Should he come to use it it shall be because he is beholden to it and not it answering to his command. If he loses the light then he shall be lost.
More than the Weave is discussed. The Queen and mine’s discussions over the “modern world”, reality, and modern ideals enthrall her. I would be a liar if I said I did not delight in her enthusiasm. She is increasingly resolved to break the wheel as she is emboldened by the possibilities of what could replace it. Brave and bold departures from the sanctity of tradition take root in her thought. Truly, she can free this world and I shall see to it that she does.
The bolder the departure the more displeased the Bastard is with the notion. Some of it he is genuinely averse to, most of it is the poison of jealousy and distrust in his veins. The rift between them widens and when our one year in the chamber concludes, it takes my best to prevent me and him from coming to lethal blows.
When the chamber door opens and we exit one full day later, the two of them are exponentially better prepared to face the looming doom but it has come at a much higher cost than I anticipated. If this world’s Messiah is ‘them’, I may have been an unwitting Judas. The Imp approaches us with wry wit queries as the correlation between the changes in our appearances to our personalities. The Bastard storms off in a fit of anger.
The Imp is rightfully concerned. The Queen assures him that she’ll sort it out. As he’s informing her of any events she may have missed she walks down the hall with my bo staff in her hand. Using it helped her channel her power and she took quite a liking to it.
I feel the faintest prick of a dagger in my back. I don’t how she’s been practicing but the Young Assassin clearly has been.
She informs me that she won. I inform her that is not quite true, as my unignited saber is pointed directly at her chest. She says she wants one. I say that she has to complete her training first.
She asks, “When do we begin?”
I chuckle. I knew I liked her for a reason, “After I have a chat with your sister.”
She leads me on circuitous path in and out of dark corners. Either she is testing me or arranging my execution. So long as the Bastard isn’t waiting to challenge me to a duel in the catacombs I am exceedingly confident in my ability to survive. Fortunately the latter does not appear to be the case. We appear to simply be avoiding contact as much as possible as we sneak to the Lady’s chamber door.
I sense three people in the room and I can identify all three: the Lady, the Dog, and the Maid Knight. The Young Assassin beckons me to enter before her. There is a strong probability that this may be a trap. No matter, they’re setting a bear trap for a dragon.
I walk through the door to see The Dog and the Maid Knight standing on either side of the Lady. Well it is my fortune that they would appear to be here as guards and not murderers. Good, I delight in knowing that I don’t have to hurt them. They’re good people who are wise enough of the world to be suspicious and discerning. Exactly the kind of people that can help actualize a better world.
I attempt to be witty and gracious in my overture but the Lady is not having it. She demands a full explanation of what I am. To accommodate her I attempt to translate what parts of my experience I can into something familiar for their time and place. What I manage to say is taken with considerable suspicion. Much like my prior confrontation with the Imp, I find myself proud of her opposition to me. It means that she is in fact, learning and improving.
Our conversation is at an impasse. To break the tension in the room I ask her if she would like to learn to dance. She assures me that she has been educated on how to dance. I assure her that no high born has the faintest notion of what dancing is. With a heavy sigh she dismisses me, yet I do not leave.
Her business with me is done but my business with her is not. The guards step forward to escort me out but before either can lay a hand on me, I voice my concerns for her brother, the Bastard.
“What did you do to him?” she asks as she bares her fangs at me.
“Nothing he had not done himself. Before this over he shall need you, both of you”, I say as look back at the Young Assassin.
Though you may not accept it, I am rooting for you, Bastard. My presence may have set you astray but not beyond the reach of your sisters. Emphatically I believe in them as I wish you did. If only you had been witness to their triumphs and torments, as I have, you would.
Before I can leave a messenger rushes into the room. Apparently the Bastard has mounted one of the dragons and is flying north to do something stupidly heroic…alone.
We rush to the courtyard were we are met by the Queen and the Imp. Both her and I can sense the confusion and frustration that clouds his mind. He fears that he has lost her and this is a misguided attempt to win her back from me when I never stole her…
The Queen and I lock eyes…I never meant to…consciously.
This creation is the cosmos of my mind.
I cannot let this happen.
She’s preparing to mount her own dragon and chase off after him. Both I and the Imp implore her not to. He speaks of how she is too important to just fly off on her own into doom itself, and I completely agree but if we’re going to get her to listen I have to come at this from another angle. I ask her to trust in me to get the task done as I telekinetically pull my staff from her hands and call it back to me.
I want her to issue me a stern command to return “him to her”.
Instead she whispers gently into my ear, “Come back to me”.
My emotions have betrayed me.
I can’t help myself. With a cocksure smile and wink I blast off into the winter sky and speed north in pursuit of the Bastard. As I soar high above the ground I ponder whether I am truly doing so because there is no time to waste to save him or if my actions are compelled by my subconscious desire. How fortuitous it is that these unfortunate circumstances serve to best endear me to the woman I adore.
Is it so that my grand purpose is but hollow pretense for my petty desire? Doth I protest my wish to be liberator too much? Am I the tyrant? Or yet am I the slave to my own wishes?
I must know that I am free. I must believe that I am liberator and enlightener. I must save the Bastard from the fate my own subconscious has crafted for him. I must.
After a measure of time I know not, he is found. He is found in the heart of a blizzard immediately next to the presence of the King Other. I soar in next to the dragon. As I do so, I notice the large shadow that is circling us in the storm. Once I’m close enough I glide myself down through the unrelenting snow and wind onto the dragon’s back.
The Bastard is none too pleased to see me. Though he is screaming at me with his full force I cannot hear clearly a single word in the maelstrom. What I can hear is the flapping of a second set of wings. All the rest of the world goes quiet…
Long seconds pass between the “whoosh” of each wing flap, then perfect silence… From the fringes of our line of sight erupts the horrible visage of the undead, frozen dragon as it bears down on us breathing its foul blue flame. Our dragon quite impressively rolls to meet its flame with his. I and the Bastard desperately clasp on to one of his back spikes before he can reorient himself. The King Other rides his glorious undead mount. As he passes by preparing a second attack, the Bastard leaps off the back of his dragon toward his enemy. Because of his training he can make that leap he has no right making, with a dragon steel blade in hand no less. It sets him up for a fight that he cannot win.
This is a battle brought on by the poison I injected the Bastard’s veins. I watch him lose and as I do it all becomes clear to me. For one I dishonored this world. Its creator would have nothing but disdain for my interference in the affairs he so carefully, brilliantly, painstakingly crafted. My being has no place or purpose here outside of my ego and as such has distorted the world in subtler fashion, infinitely more grave than I ever anticipated.
The Queen and he as the Messiah are the one grand exception that this world will allow for. That power in which I reserved for myself made me the second, and when I passed that power to them created a third and fourth. Of all the worlds in my conception few are less forgiving than this one and failures shall suffer consequence, here. The world itself is bringing itself back into balance by writing out the excess, and as a foreign entity it has no sovereignty over me.
For two, I cannot in good conscience tell you that this is out of line with my will. My self-deception has betrayed me through corrupting him. I told myself that I wanted to liberate and enlighten this world and I would need her to do it. Alas, my desire was all together more acutely juvenile and petty: I wanted her and the rest was my excuse. For me and her to rule as god and goddess I needed him gone.
With a flash of blue light the Bastard is sent tumbling off of the King Other’s monstrous steed, hurtling towards the ground several hundred feet below us.
What shall I do?
The King Other locks eyes with me as we stride the massive mythical monsters. He points at me with his icy spear and his undead mount comes at us. I raise my hands to my face, palms out, fingers pointed inward and spread wide and call for the sun. Luminously blinding sunlight engulfs us and breaks the storm.
I’m speeding downwards as fast as I can. The Queen’s dragon is flying back the Bastard’s castle. The King Other and his undead beast have been knocked out of the sky and are falling. Now’s my chance; I could ignite my saber and drive it through his heart ending all of this!
Too bad I’m a good two-hundred feet below him catching up to the falling Bastard. I catch him just before he hits the tundra but I can’t quite break my momentum enough for a comfortable landing. Hard impact hurts, a lot. Good thing I gave myself the strength of an ascended dragon warrior, otherwise I’d be paste. He’s out cold but the Bastard is unscathed.
Several seconds later the King Other and his dragon crash with a thunderous boom. Its body lies broken in several pieces only held together by the skin but he stands unfazed, completely unharmed. I ignite my amethyst blade and run towards him. As I do he raises his right hand and then slashes it down into a point at my saber. A wind so cold that it feels like a hundred burning blades slashes past me, stopping me in my tracks and short circuiting my blade.
Through the weave I call for my staff and it comes hurtling towards my open hand. As I do so, he manifests another icy spear from his beast’s broken spikes. We face one another; I channel the weave through the staff preparing for combat.
After a moment I spring forward at him with speed far beyond a human’s limit. He strikes his guard and I rotate to my right to wrap around, sliding both my hands down the shaft to strike his head as if I were wielding a great sword…and WHACK!
I hit him with every ounce of enhanced strength that I possess, and it does little more than chip the side of his face.
The King Other turns his head and lips unmoving, speaks in a voice that is not his alone, that echoes like the void, “Dreams”, I am struck by horror and awe, “Each man longs to pursue his dreams. Each man is tortured by this dream but the dream gives meaning to his life. Even if the dream ruins his life he cannot allow himself to leave it behind. In this world is a man ever able to possess anything more solid than a dream?”
It can’t be.
“In this world is the destiny of mankind controlled by some kind of transcendental entity or law? At least it is true that man has no control, even over his own will.”
This foe is far beyond any dark emperor. Now I see; see that I am but a child playing at being divine, that he is not bound by my will, rather I am to his, my foe is Fate, and all in this world is in accordance with his will. Orchestrated by whispers in flames, the Messiah is but a lamb to lead the flock to slaughter.
No. No. No! NO!
“I reject your dominion!”
He may hold power over this entire world, but I am not of this world. I am master of my own will and I am no slave to his whim! This may be his world but this is my cosmos.
Where I chipped his face begins to glow…it explodes, taking his left jaw and cheek.
He wails in pain with a guttural hiss.
From above I hear another hiss, but this one is roaring and is accompanied by the sound of large wings. The Queen has come. As she descends on the back of her largest dragon the King Other animates the broken corpse of his. Before I can strike a second blow he has thrown his spear at the Queen.
Through the weave I’m able to grab it out of the air but she also averts her course to dodge it. Breaking off from her approach give him time to climb on the dragon corpse rapidly reassembling itself and fly away under the cover of snowy mist. The King Other has escaped from what appears to be his first genuine defeat, but as he leaves he speaks,
“Now the story begins”,
And I am left uncertain of my victory.
The Queen lands and her loyal knight dismounts to retrieve the Bastard. As I approach she extends a hand to help me up but I notice that she is giving me the same look she gave him in the same circumstance.
Do I have any control over my own will?