For Glory, For Empire
The Nature of Beginnings
“Some of the Darkness has been vanquished.”
“Ah, young Talis, I felt it,” Tubayek acknowledged with a grin. “However, that was but a dimly lit coal compared to what awaits. It is a start.”
“It felt good being able to push back. My training seems to be up to the task.”
“Again, that was but a start.”
“Ha, a ‘start’? You should’ve seen it! That evildoer’s eyes were widened in surprise when the Light’s Smite hammered home,” Talis let out a whoop as the memory played again in her mind.
The old man nodded and decided to let her enjoy her victory a little while longer. He had let it be known that it was a beginning and maybe that would be enough for now. Yes, let her enjoy it now, for soon, there will be little enough to celebrate.
“So, Master, tell me of your first time struggling with Darkness. What happened? I want to know every little detail. Were you by yourself? If so, how did you survive? If not, who was there with you? Were you part of a team of the Light? What were their names?"
“You seem to misunderstand, Young Talis. The struggle is continuous. The first and the last is one. My struggle began before I knew it was Darkness I faced.”
“There was a pinch-faced man with some unclear role in the Zalamiri bureaucracy that came to visit my second master, an odious merchant of exotic foodstuffs, every time we visited Salamport. The visitor came each time with a trifling present, something expected by custom, but always contained a veiled insult or joke at my master’s expense. My master afterward seethed and flogged me until his blood had cooled. He referred to the visitor as ‘a necessary evil.’”
“Then on my last trip there, before the pinch-faced man arrived, there was another. Neither handsome, nor tall, nor fat… the only thing I have ever been able to recall was his plainness, and the Darkness that surrounded him. He came with no gift, and my master handed him a heavy sack of coins, and I was told to show the man out through the kitchen.”
“Not much later, the pinch-faced man came with a hideous statuette that bore no small resemblance to my master’s mother. My master took it with aplomb; no seething, no hatred, just a cold smile. He profusely apologized that all was not ready for him, and that he should return the next day.”
“The pinch-faced man was perturbed, but left. A short time later, I was taking table scraps outside to leave for the strays. And there, down the way, was the plain man carrying the body of the pinch-faced man toward the sea. He turned back toward me, looked about, but didn’t see me.”
“Many years later, after I had won my freedom, I saw a blind beggar near the docks in Salamport. He had the Darkness about him, and he stopped his begging and turned directly to face me several yards away. It was the plain man. He leaped up to attack me, but tripped and fell over some sacks of millet being unloaded from a wagon. He rolled out into traffic, and he was trampled right in front of me by the team of a passing beer wagon.”
“I never even thought of using a wagon,” exclaimed Talis. “I guess anything could be wielded with the Power of Light.”
“Again, you misunderstand, Young One. I did not will those beasts to trample that poor man,” Tubayek sighed in exasperation. “Attend sharply now.”
“Darkness will feed and fall upon itself in a consistent state of growth and decay; a natural law of Chaos that can be witnessed. Yet, there are some who can wield that power and make it grow faster than the decay. That is what we must watch out for.
“If we strode forth and struck down every mote of Darkness, we would become the hand of that Darkness, even when we thought we were doing the Light’s work. So, striking Darkness at whim only feeds into the Chaos, never really making any impact on the battle between the Light and the Dark.
“We must be like the gardener who prunes the bush when needed, so we don’t become the Hand of Darkness. That is why we are here. We will prune as needed, and some of that pruning will resist greatly. We must find what feeds that branch and prune it before it can grow so large that it shields the Light from all that are beneath.”
Talis thought for a minute as the waves crashed upon the shoreline. “So, this is a battle that cannot be won, only managed. Reith mentioned something like this, but I did not understand at the time, and maybe yet, still don’t quite comprehend the breadth of our task.” The adrenaline from the earlier fight had left her. She shook her head, not wanting to become overwhelmed. “We must find others that can help. You say you will not see the end, and I can’t do it alone,” her voice quavered in despair.
“Hold, Young One. Feel that fear and embrace it, for it will be a shield for you in time. But in that, even if you are all by yourself facing that impossible looking task, you will never be alone. Look up to the stars. They sing for you, letting you know they are watching, that they have your back, and when the time comes, they will embrace you and help you do what you might feel to be impossible.”
“Deep breaths, have faith.”