Writing Prompt: The Dark Lord’s minions have better working conditions than anywhere else. Women aren’t sexually harassed, peasants and their children have enough to eat, and they are all paid good wages. This gives the heroes pause.
Gabriel sat before a slowly dying fire, her body consumed by the shadows of nightfall. It was ill-advised to light fires at night, unless of course your purpose was to draw the Wretchling from their sleep. Light was a beacon to those creature’s of the damned, they despised it, and all it stood for.
“You’ll need a larger light, if you’re hoping to catch damn near anything out here.” Alexander, second legionnaire to Gabriel’s forces of Light, crouched down beside the fire, his face gaunt beneath the flickering flames, “Our people, Gabriel, they’re dying…”
Gabriel refused to look up from the fire.
“The hunger we could manage, though broth is far from a meal worthy of fighting men and women. But now it is sickness that strikes at the heart of our camp… and it’s spreading.” Alexander shook his head, mindless of the hair disheveled that fell upon his face, “Our people have barely the strength to fight disease, let alone a Wretchling Horde.” he reached out for Gabriel’s hand, but she refused him, moving instead to stand.
“I am aware of the situation, Alexander, as were these men and women you speak of aware of the situation when they enlisted to fight a war in the name of Our Queen. Their payment will come,” Gabriel ran her hand over the flames, stealing its warmth for her own, “in the glory that will be bestowed upon our victory. Their riches will be the fame that greets their names eternities from now.”
“Glory won’t fill an empty stomach, and fame sure as sh*t can’t cure a common cold.” Alexander spat the words out as if the very utterance of such rewards was a mockery, distasteful to his tongue, “There won’t be a victory, Gabriel, unless those men and women, our men and women, are treated proper. There’s been talks, around camp…”
“Talks of what?” Gabriel began mindlessly toying with the hilt of her silver-edged blade, tucked safely in its scabbard, “A mutiny?”
“Worse, I’m afraid.” Alexander’s mouth ran dry, he wet his lips and swallowed before saying, “Treason.”
“Treason?” Gabriel almost laughed, her hand falling from her blade, “I’m not sure I follow.”
Alexander took a seat in the dirt, leg folded, and gestured for Gabriel to join him, “Apparently a man by the name Grimm came to visit the camp, not some four nights back.”
The camp fire rose up around Alexander, bringing to life his words in a tapestry of thought. Around him shadows formed first into tents and then tents formed to figures and figures to a crowd.
Grimm was a man hidden beneath the wraps of cloak after cloak after cloak, a man given to warmth in the heart of harshest winter. At first the crowded forces of Gabriel’s army had hated the man for no more than what he wore, the plumpness of his cheeks, the joy of his voice, and the spring of his step. But they would come to understand it was not he who should be blamed for what they lacked.
“My good people,” Grimm tittered from a mouth full of fangs, “you look simply famished, more bone to the sack than there is meat! I dare say the Wretchling would find little of interest in what you have to offer.” he gazed upon the sea of confusion, each face wearing a question vaguely similar to that of the face beside it; who are you, and why are you here?
“They call me Grimm, but ma my visit be far from it. I am here as liaison from the Wretchling Lord himself, to offer a bargain.”
A flurry of cries flew across the crowd; Liaison to the Wretchling Lord? What bargain? Burn the Witch!
“Listen, my good people, listen. That is all I ask. I have come to offer insight, first and foremost. Tell me,” Grimm cast his eye across the crowd, “you look to the Wretchling as creature’s to despise, as works of the purest evil, but what if I were to say that there is an evil far more convoluted that festers from within?
“Call it Greed, if you will, and don’t dare deny its presence.” Grimm’s forked tongue flickered in warning at the crowd, “You leave the common folk of your kingdoms to rot in barely habitable homes, charging taxes far beyond reason, depriving them of the simplest necessities such as food, and as warmth and as decency of health and life.”
There were many murmurs of agreement at the deprivation of such basic needs.
“Do you yourselves not suffer poverty from lack of wealth? A wealth your Queen would rather sit upon than share among her people? And whilst we speak of Queens and of people, what of your women? What Queen could allow the senseless harassment of an entire gender to continue unabated. Has she herself not been met with the oppression of sense?”
More voices joined the rallying cries of accord.
“And yet you endure this. Why? That is my question to you. Why?”
Why not? Was the somewhat simple-minded response. What possible alternative is there?
“I came to offer insight so I will offer you this, and then I will leave. The Wretchling Lord strives for dominance over a world he views as misguided. A world that favours riches over the well being of its fellow man. A world that grasps at power leaving no hand to offer help to those that need it most. You may argue the Wretchling Lord is the prime of all examples when it comes to ceasing after power, but I tell you this;
“There is no famine in our lands, what grows and is grown is shared equally among all our Lord’s people. There is no wealth in hierarchy, our Lord himself sees no need of such trivial things as silver and gold. There is no fear of living rough, for as Our Lord’s domain expands so too does his collection of property. All are afforded a place worthy of being called a home. Taxation is fair, necessary but not overbearing. Wages are turned to the purpose of leisure, knowing that life’s most basic of rights – food, water, cleanliness, warmth – are all accounted for from the pocket of Our Lord. We are treated as equals, regardless of such trivial differences as race, gender, species. Our Lord may be born of the dark, but he wishes to bathe the world in his light.”
The flames began to simmer down, the dark encasing Alexander as the memory faded from view.
“How many?” Gabriel asked, closing her fist now firmly around the hilt of her blade, “How many have shown willing to commit treason at the say so of this Grimm? How many might we lose?”
“Too many.” Alexander conceded, “But there is a solution, is there not? We feed our people, clothe them, keep them warm. We protect them, as well they should be protected.”
Gabriel shook her head, “There is a cost to war, Alexander. We cannot simply give from the good of hearts. There is a natural order to things, an order that must remain if the world is to survive.”
Alexander laughed without joy, turning from the fire to leave, “We are meant to be the heroes of this world, Gabriel. And yet I see more light in the dark than I do in us…”
Copyright © K R Perry 2019