Chapter 114 = Destiny
Disclaimer: All characters here are of my own invention, but the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
17th of Jallora, CD 2156; Throne Room of
It immediately became clear to Darkmark that he was in over his head. While most of his opponents so far had received only basic training in the sword, the King with whom he was now duelling showed clear mastery of the blade from years, perhaps decades of training. Each swing of his sword flowed cleanly into the next, forcing Darkmark to step further and further back or to the sides. Each thrust that Darkmark made was avoided easily and countered, the brown Yoshi barely escaping a deadly slash from the fine, regal blade.
Darkmark’s skill with the sword, such as it was, paled in comparison. He had been self-taught, adapting what he already knew from using a different weapon entirely, and using the fragments of knowledge Karlo-Shin had imparted on him, but never a formal training – and until now, against common soldiers, a wizard, mercenaries, bounty hunters and others of mediocre talent, it had been enough. But now, he was completely outmatched.
The normal thrust-and-parry style of swordsmanship Darkmark was accustomed to seeing was not at all what the King was using – he simply stepped away from the handful of attacks Darkmark was able to make, and never struck at his own blade, always attempting to go for the killing strike and end the battle quickly. Only Darkmark’s enhanced reflexes from his slightly recovered psionics were keeping him alive, but how could he fight back against such a foe without the full extent of his powers?
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the Prince. He was hiding in the corner, but not quite cowering, instead standing and watching the proceedings with interest. The idea of using him as a hostage briefly crossed Darkmark’s mind…
But no, I cannot and will not stoop to using such a tactic.
He quickly returned his focus to the fight, jumping out of the way of a strong and deadly slash, regretting having strained his psionics so much upon entering the room. He made an upward slash of his own, and quickly retreated to avoid another deadly cut from the well-sharpened edge of the King’s sword. If he could run long enough, he would be able to recover enough to start using his powers again – and so he kept retreating, dodging attacks or feinting to give himself enough time to reposition.
But then it went disastrously wrong as he was disarmed. Not via sword strike as he would have expected, but from a swift upward kick by the King, knocking his sword from his hands, and sending it clattering to the floor some distance away. The King immediately advanced to finish the job, but Darkmark stepped away, putting some distance between them. He was completely reliant on his reflexes now, as he had no backup weapon, twisting his body back and bending out of the way of strikes so powerful from a sword so sharp it could likely cleave through anything softer than steel. He could not keep such a feat up forever, and as he rolled to the side and sprang up to his feet he took a wound across his leg. Mercifully only the tip of the sword had struck him, or he might have lost the entire limb; but still the wound was there and crippled his movement.
The King clearly had no words to give his foe, and raised his sword for the killing strike. Darkmark raised his hand in defence, and stopped the sword on a shimmering purple shield of energy, deflecting the blow. He could no longer run, and had nowhere to hide and no weapon with which to fight back… but he still could not lose.
And so, knowing how much was resting on his shoulders, how important it was that he did not fail here, he continued to use his psionics to fight. The strain was mild for the moment but would soon build up again, and then he would be finished.
“I am without a weapon, but I still have my mind.” Darkmark said quietly, standing his ground on his injured leg. He blocked a horizontal slash on another mental shield, and actively knocked away the blade next time; swinging out his arm, the force jarred the King somewhat and he stepped back to recover. Darkmark limped forward, and came under attack again, with a stronger swing he knocked the King’s sword from his grasp, sending it to the ground at his feet. Quickly he bent to recover it, but Darkmark did not even need to do that to be faster than him, extending his hand and pulling the sword into his grasp, holding it two-handed.
“You are without a weapon, and have nothing to fight back with.” Darkmark growled, raising the sword. It was awkward and not made for someone of his build or stature, but it would suffice in such a situation. His own sword was too far away and he no longer needed it. The King raised his arms in surrender.
The last refuge of the man desperate to save his own life, no matter the cost to others. Darkmark thought. He would gladly tell other men never to surrender, but for him the rules suddenly change, don’t they?
Unfortunately for you, I play by different rules. I judge you by your actions, your selfish, greedy actions, and care not if you are unarmed or have surrendered, as you were quite content to attack me while I was unarmed. You have never shown mercy, and I will not show it to you.
Darkmark delivered the killing slash without any further thought. Even though the blade was unwieldy, it did not matter against an unarmed opponent, and the man fell dead at his feet, the King’s crown falling from his head and rolling away across the polished tiles of the throne room.
It was eerily silent for a moment, as Darkmark healed his wound, and went to get his sword, pondering on what he had just done. Was this the only way? Was this the right thing to do? Were they really so incapable of change that such drastic measures were necessary?
He caught movement from the corner of his eye, and looked up, seeing the Prince, whom he had forgotten about. He had no weapon and did not move with any intent to attack Darkmark, and was looking down at the dead King and the fallen crown with a solemn face. His gaze glanced up to the brown Yoshi, and he spoke calmly.
“Was my father a bad person? They told me only bad people get killed.”
Darkmark turned his body to face the Prince. Unlike the King, he had brown hair, presumably inherited from his mother. He was young, but clearly knowledgeable; presumably the child of a monarch had the resources to get a thorough and professional education. He did not seem to fear Darkmark, even though he had just killed his father and many others before him; he simply stood and watched.
But, he was still the next in line to throne.
Darkmark turned and rose his sword…
…and slid it back into its scabbard at his side.
“Yes,” Darkmark said, answering the Prince. “He was a bad person. He sent people to their deaths and ordered them to kill others. He and his advisors only cared about themselves, no matter what pain they inflicted on others, and all of it was for their own selfish desires. That’s why they are all dead.”
“I’m the prince”, came the reply. “Does that make a bad person too?”
“You’re only a child. You have not ruled yet.” Darkmark answered. “You have the chance to be a good ruler, a good person. You have the power to change the way things are, and be better than the king was.”
“But I might turn out like him. Why don’t you kill me?”
Darkmark took a moment to respond. Young though he was, the Prince clearly had a way with words, and could read the emotions of who he was speaking to, and could tell that Darkmark didn’t want to kill him. “If I killed you,” he explained, “There wouldn’t be peace. I can see that now. They would just find a replacement and continue this lunacy. Someone else would take your place. But if I leave you alive… there’s at least a chance, some chance that you’ll be a good ruler, and not follow in your father’s footsteps. No matter how slim… a chance for peace has to be taken. War is a terrible thing, this war has yet to truly start and yet so many have already lost their lives, and are gone forever.”
“No matter how slim…” The Prince echoed, musing. “Even if you had to kill all of us?”
“I don’t want it to come to that. I’d rather give you a chance to overcome your human nature and better yourselves. People are not inherently evil, even if they have tendencies to be selfish – but all of us have the ability to think for ourselves and make our own decisions, and decide to be good people. Despite all the evils the human race has wrought, and despite all the things you have done… they have the power to change. They just choose not to.”
“What should I do?” The Prince asked candidly.
“I mostly have mere suggestions.” Darkmark said. “All I can say is that you live your life without causing pain to others, and to relieve any pain they are already in. Not just in your personal life, but on the grand scale too – avoid wars, don’t attack or kill other people just because you want what they have or they are in your way. Pacifism only works when everyone is willing to put away their weapons together, but we are – if only you would do the same, both of our races could coexist. But time and time again through history you have let your human nature take over, and have stuck out at us and those around you. The average person cannot change this – but you are the prince, and if I leave you alive, you will be the king. You will have the power to change this, to help us all live together peacefully. All you have to do is live by that rule… avoid causing pain to others.”
“Is that what you do?”
“It is our only rule. Everything else falls into place from there. Sometimes it makes for difficult decisions, but we avoid causing pain to others and we help each other to avoid and heal pain in our lives. Nothing else is needed.”
“Then that’s what I’ll do. My father never had time for me, and just cared about money and power. Look where it got him… I don’t want to be like that, or end that way.”
“Thank you.” Darkmark said, breathing a huge sigh of relief. “You have given us all hope.”
A tremendous weight lifted from his heart, and his spirits lifted; he felt, at last, as though was at peace. It was over; a terrible war averted, peace obtained, and the people who looked up to him, who counted on him and called him a Saviour – they were all safe. Perhaps not as he had originally imagined it, but still he had at long last fulfilled his destiny.
Though it had only been months, the time since his life had changed felt like years. But finally… he was free.
To be continued…