It was, all told, a fairly run of the mill prophecy.
A Dark Force would rise, all would be swept before it and it
would rule o’er the land until such time as a hero pure of heart might rise
against it, to cast down what once had seemed unstoppable and return his people
to their rightful place in the sun.
Hackneyed, to be frank. Overdone. The sort of thing you’d
heard a thousand times before…
Still, they WERE my people, and hackneyed or not I was
determined to protect them, no matter what hell I had to put myself through,
what sacrifices or compromises I might have to make. They were my people, I had
a duty to keep them safe, and whatever dark force might in time rise I’d keep
them safe whatever price had to be paid.
If I didn’t, after all, what sort of hero would I be?
What sort of leader would I be?
Fighting the Dark Force, I decided, would be an easier
matter were I to seek it out before it had time to take root and establish its
base of power, and to this end I sent a network of spies to all four corners of
the kingdom, to find whatever hole it might be hiding in and drag it out into
Yes, there were tales of spies abusing their power over the
locals, but I paid them no heed. They were doing important work, after all, and
I couldn’t let the misdeeds of a few taint that work, however grave those
alleged misdeeds might have been.
Some protested, because some will always protest, and I
admit it did hurt my heart to order my generals to put the protests down. They
were good people, after all, most of them were good people, they were probably
good. But in a time of crisis a people must stand together, strong and
resolute, and if the dissent of the few threaten to weaken the whole it has to
end, however well meaning it might be.
There were those among my advisors who disagreed with the
heaviness of my hand in dealing with the protests, and of course I encouraged
those around me to voice their opinions on the matter.
It made it easier, after all, to know who was against me for
when the long knives came…
By the second round of protests my precautions were really
beginning to come to fruition. My spies told me well in advance they were being
organized, and my forces, now freed from any in their leadership who might take
moral issue with the crushing of dissent, cracked down with brutal efficiency. The
streets ran red, and by the time the bodies had been carted away it was clear
that, if a third wave of protests were ever to begin, they would begin far away
from the capital.
I heard the rumors when they did, of a farm boy in the
provinces giving speeches, rallying locals in support of the values our kingdom
once held dear, as though every step I had taken had not been to protect those
same values, but every time I sent an assassin, or a platoon of soldiers to put
him down once and for all, all it did was drive more people to his cause.
I couldn’t believe, as the reports came in, how many
eventually grew to support his cause. Did my people not understand that all I
had done, I had done to protect them?
And now he and his rag-tag bunch is outside the walls of this
very capital city, and more of my soldiers are abandoning their posts to join
him every day.
Before long they will breach these walls, I understand this
now, and they will find me in my castle and drag me out into the street. I
could run, but I will not. When the end comes for me I will face it, not out of
any sense of courage, but rather with the profound moral exhaustion of a man
who has done everything he could to protect those he loves, only to see his
best intentions come to less than nothing.
I have nothing left to fight for, now, and my heart is too
heavy to try.
It’s never easy realizing that, at the end of the day, all
you’ve made of yourself is the Evil King in someone else’s story…