THE DARK LORD JEAGA HAS COME TO MEET THE DRAGON-BOY HUNTING HIM.
“An age ago I learned of the SUUN, immortal beings of light and thought, free of the flaws of man – pure. I served a great dwarf in those days, proud, noble. It was the honor of my life to be so near such greatness. He wanted to lead his people back to the surface, ‘reforge the bonds of old he would say.’ I served until he fell. I watched him take what remained of a once well-known house, reduced to extinction by time and misfortune, and build it back into something to be proud of.”
The dead one turned his eyes away from me as if turning toward the pain he so obviously carried. A proud fool facing his fear in the hopes of defeating it, as if memories can die.
“On the verge of his dream, he was struck down by his own; fools afraid of progress and change, preferring to stay in the dirt, alone, then do anything today they didn’t do yesterday. Like anything of use, I was passed to his successor. I watched him spit on all that his father had built and in my prison of servitude, I knew hate. The son didn’t sit the throne long before betrayal took him too and so I served three kings in one lifetime.”
Shefa said nothing. He had heard this story many times before.
“Too young to rule, the new king was not even agent enough to be a puppet and the vows I made seemed to no longer hold value. Thinking back to the fantasy of my youth, I set out to find the SUUN. It took me several lifetimes to find them.” A bird flew by, high in the distance, but dragon eyes miss very little. As it soared over the necromancer, it aged, it rotted and died. Felled from the sky at a thousand paces. Impressive he thought.
“They welcomed me, tutored me … for a time. My goal was to learn their secret to immortality, to carry the gift to those rare few beings who want progress without fear, charity without pity – that one soul a generation who embodies everything clean about a species. I would make them eternal, slowly steering the world toward paradise … instead of this greed ridden shit-stained cesspool of violent misery we have come to accept as life.”
“But they cast you out,” Shefa reasoned.
“As I said, for a time.” Dark lips under dark eyes signaled to me. On another face I might have called it a smile, but not here. Malicious joy comes closest.
The SUUN seek enlightenment, to leave behind the ‘mother of all pain; want.’ My desire to twist this journey, to weaponize it to make myself a god, was abhorrent to them. I, of course, at the time, didn’t see it this way.”
“I alone holding the power to make gods, to choose who gets eternal life and who remains subject to life’s tragedies, would give me a certain … corruptible leverage over others.” Malicious joy. “So, I left.”
As if a timer went off igniting a hypnotic response, he replaced his mask with conviction. Did he need it? Was it keeping him alive? Was he suddenly aware of how comfortable he had gotten with the enemy?
“I combed the Library in the capitol, spoke to everyone in the seven cities, read every holy book in the ten spires … None of these places had the answers I sought. I found my way in the teachings of ShuRaptsis. The dark arts. Black magic. Necromancy.” Just hearing the word out loud engaged his fight or flight response. There are somethings even dragons avoid … if they are wise.
“Studying the writings of this clearly unstable cult, I learned the truth of it all.”
“What truth is that?”
“None of it matters. We all have failed.” Shefa said nothing but he wore his curiosity plain on his face.
“The gods hail from the realm of light. Why would they ever leave an eternal paradise … for this?”
“Power,” Shefa said.
“Power,” the dead man confirmed. “Where they are from, they are nothing, nobodies like you and me, here. One more sheep in the heard. One more ant in the army. But here, on the material plane, those sheep…
“Got to be lions,” Jeaga nodded.
“They came here. They built worlds, they created life, they made themselves the ‘Great Ones’ in all the ways they could never be back home. These beings we give such reverence, are nothing more than minor lords calling themselves emperors of the slums.” Shefa could feel the vertigo setting in. he tried to stay neutral, to listen-empty, as the elves say, but his logical mind rejected the words as quickly as they fell upon them. His heart heard nothing but truth from this ghost in a suit of skin. Shefa adjusted the internal pressure of his circulatory system, dropping his blood pressure and sliding back to a place of tranquility.
“So, the gods moved to greener pastures, why would I possibly care?”
“Because the world is as they made it. I did not have to be this way. The pain and the suffering and the brief flicker of life all the while knowing, helpless, a return to dark is inevitable. They created pain. To make us need them. Without them, we would all be as powerful as you. How much of life truly troubles you, dragon king?”
There it was, laid out as neat and simple as a raindrop. At the center of every desire is a pain. Often something there that shouldn’t be, like those memories he carries heavy on his heart, century upon century. Sometimes, its something missing, a hole that needs filling. Like the never ending hounding call of freedom.
“The worst of it is; their power. They have so little, so very little power. They require OUR power. Our prayers surrender our power to them. WE are the source of their strength. Their temples and mantras, sacred books and holy days – all a harlot’s seduction, a necessary humbling to convince us to work the fields to fill their tables, not our own. When we stop praying, they fade, back to the prison they came from, once again reduced to what they truly are; neglected children.” Many moments passed. Two men who weren’t two men watched each other and waited. Courtesy dictated Shefa count to ten before speaking. Courtesy demanded Jeaga give his guest time to think and respond.
“You sound like you hate them,” Shefa said at nine seconds.
“Of course, I hate them. That’s why I’m going to kill them. All of them. Every last one.”
“What will that do to us? To our realms, our worlds? To all their followers?”
“That is no longer my concern. The charade and the tyranny must end.”
“Whatever the price?”
“Whatever the cost.”
“Then I have to kill you.”
“If I were you, I would do exactly what you are doing, so I understand, but I’m not you and what you have planned will hurt MY friends. So, by happenstance, you are my enemy. What do you do to your enemies?”
“Good luck, dragon-king. Dress well for your trip, it is quite cold on the other side.” Jeaga said, just as the shadows ate him.