- April 3, 2022
The Incarnations: The Incarnal War (Chapter 15)
A Lack of Gratitude
A Lack of Gratitude
Every Incarnation was told by Death and I to go home and to stay there until called upon for the summit, where terms between the victors and the defeated would discuss how we would all proceed. There was much time to be spent by each of us just thinking about what happened.
Not every Incarnation needed to spend time alone, Madam Honor does not reside in her land. She was offered refuge by the Duke of War and found that she did not want to go home. I fear she may never wish to return to her realm, never to attempt to repopulate it. At least she is not alone now.
Sir Happiness went to his home after being freed by Onheil. Even though he wished for his sister to be spared, he did not seek to reside with her.
Sir Peace was released to return back to his home, where he recuperates after his torture by the Duchess of Desire. He doesn’t seem angry. Of everyone left, everyone touched by this war, he is the only one content.
Lady Justice made a point to make a swift recovery and has regained her ability to move without help. The marks left upon her skin will fade and disappear, but for her, the reminder of her loss in battle cannot fade away fast enough.
Sir Gratitude turns to isolation, he has made no point to reveal his condition to us, not even King Good, who sought his counsel and was rejected an audience. Hopefully, with the war over he will finally gain a chance to heal.
Lord Dread has begun to assist the Lady Love in her reparations to her castle. She will have her own safe home to return to soon, which strangely does not make either one very happy. They have grown, strangely close.
Death attempted to take King Evil to Paradise, to care for him in his time of loss, but he rejected all company. The Duchess of Desire managed her way to him and has not left his side since, a blow that has certainly been dealt to his mother. At the very least, it seems the friendship his Majesty thought he lost is not.
The less said about Lady Hate the better.
After a week I think it’s time to reconvene. I sit crossed-legged in the Nothingness, contemplating if I have given everyone enough time. I have given much thought as to how to proceed, and how our ways must change to assure that this never happens again.
I need Death for her advice as to whether or not this is the time. I create a letter, with words asking for her thoughts.
I send it to her across the cosmos to wherever she must be now. I don’t wish to know things she does not tell me. I’ve learned better now.
To my surprise she appears before me, standing above and looking down at my position. Sadness fills her, her arms wrapped around themselves, her dress encompassing and snug, and a cold face of emptiness. Eyes that have nothing to give.
I know why she came. “You believe we should convene now.”
“Waiting any longer is not going to improve anything. We must see our children now,” she says.
As I create the invitation for the summit, she stops me by kneeling down and placing her hand on my wrist. She tells me, “Things must change. We did this, you know that don’t you? There is no conflict that could ever happen between the two of them that could have caused something like this. They only fought because it was you and me.”
I assure her, “I know, I know too well. I’m not sure I have the answer, but for once maybe we shouldn’t assume that they don’t.” Then for a moment I look away and realize there is something I must admit. “The answer may not be us. I think I am ready to accept that.”
Death nods her head in agreement as she says so, “I believe you are right.” Then she moves her hand undermine, and the letter contains her inscription too. Now those who served under her know they are to come peacefully as well.
Without further discussion, the summons letters are sent out. The Incarnations know that the summit is mandatory, and there is only one who would think not to come. Only one has the right to refuse to come.
A summit has been called several times, mostly for one Incarnation to air grievances or asks for assistance in a matter. Not all Incarnations have had to come before. This will be the first time Lord Dread will need to come. At the summit, the Incarnations have their positions, and they are to appear accordingly.
First to come is Madam Honor and the Duke of War, each in a flash of light. They appear at the same time, with one space between them, where Sir Gratitude will stand if his illness allows him. Death and I take our places, with her to my left, and Madam Honor to my right.
Death takes an interest in this and asks, “Were you two together when you received your letters?”
The Madam answers, “Yes. I have been staying in his castle. My home is…. Empty.”
Death is quick to apologize, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to pry. It’s simply good that some of us are still connecting, even when we were on opposite sides.” Then Death turns to the Duke and compliments him. “That was a very kind gesture to offer her a place, War.”
As always, a mother does not use titles.
The Duke answers coldly through his helmet, “Even war has its mercies.”
Death is rather taken aback by his demeanor, and the Madam is swift to explain with a wave of her hand, “He’s rather bitter over your servant besting him. Please don’t take too much offense.”
“You don’t have to explain my actions for me,” War mutters to her.
“Then stop pretending to be so cold.”
Death nods her head in understanding watching and listening to them. Under other circumstances, she would find it humorous that her servant wounded the great Duke of War’s pride.
Next comes Madam Sadness in a swirl of gray smoke, taking her place besides Death to the left. When she appears more saddened than usual, Death is hesitant to ask her anything, at one time the two being rather close.
Gently, Death inquires with the Madam, “What troubles you, Sadness?”
Madam Sadness looks up at Death, and hesitates, but then realizes the futility of such a thing. “My brother,” she admits, “I thought he had let his anger towards me go, but he avoids me now as he always has.”
Death’s eyes grow wide with surprise, she did not know that the Madam had such memories of her relation to Sir Happiness.
Instead of commenting, she kneels to lay her larger hand on the small Madam’s back. She assures her, “You don’t need to feel responsible for him. You don’t need to agonize over how he feels about you. I’ve told you this.”
The Madam merely admits, “I cannot help how I feel, that which is my name, from being shunned once again.” Death opens her mouth to speak but she is interrupted by the entrance of Sir Happiness and Sir Peace.
Madam Sadness turns her head rather quickly when Sir Happiness appears beside her, hopeful for something other than malice. When he dips his head but looks away in silence, she is unsure of what to think.
Sir Peace appears beside Sir Happiness, as bronze and silver metals that appear from the ground to swirl and form into men. Sir Peace must adjust his bandages around his chest to maintain comfortability.
The Duke of War notices this. “The Duchess really did a number on you didn’t she?”
Sir Peace replies in a huff, “You have no idea,” then with contentment he adds, “but it was necessary.”
Lady Justice then appears near Sir Peace as a growing collection of vines that materialize into her form. She stands near Sir Peace with only a space between them.
As if having heard the conversation she mutters, “Strange thing to say.” The Sir gives her a sideways look but doesn’t say anything else.
Death opens her mouth to speak again, likely to ask about the Sir and Lady’s wounds, but she is interrupted by the entrance of Sir Gratitude as a flock of birds coming together. He stands between the Duke of War and Madam Honor, still with his cane.
Sir Gratitude doesn’t seem to be any better looking than when I last looked upon him. His demeanor even seems more downtrodden.
I ask him, “Sir, I hope you are feeling better now?”
Without hesitation, he turns his head and looks up at me. With cold and angry eyes, he answers, “No.” Then he looks forward to think to himself. I deserved that, but I can think of many others who would wish to be angry toward me before him.
Then without further waiting, King Good appears in a blinding flash of light near the Duke of War, a space between them that will not be filled by Lord Guilt. He looks to see who is here as most of us rub our eyes. When he sees Death, he is met with anger and distrust.
He turns his gaze to me, but I can give him no sympathy, he turns his head in shame. With his head down, he asks, “Sir Gratitude, I trust that-”
“I’m not well, Life already asked,” Sir Gratitude interrupts. He seems to be living up to his elderly look.
Then a ray of happiness finally graces us with her presence. Lady Love appears in bright light, with no lack of smiles and happy eyes for us all. Even Sir Gratitude’s demeanor lightens upon seeing her.
Lady Love is quick to happily greet everyone, first running to jump into Death’s arms, surprising her. The Lady’s much smaller form barely and comically reaches around Death’s neck, which does bring a much-wanted smile across her lips.
Death shrinks to match the Lady’s size for the Lady to kiss her cheek and say, “Hello, mother!”
“Hello to you too, Love,” Death replies eagerly. The Lady refers to us as her parents now and then, but not nearly as much as their Majesties.
When she disengages from Death she turns to me, and gives me a polite courtesy of her spectacle of a dress, flowing with many colors. I bow my head back to her which prompts her to continue to walk around with a bright smile. She courtesies Sir Gratitude who returns her smile with a bow of his head.
He tells her, “Never change, thy Lady.” She kisses him on his old cheek for such a compliment.
Then the Lady moves to Madam Honor with a hint of reservation upon seeing her now, considering the state the two last saw each other. The Lady asks, “I hope you are doing well, Madam.”
The Madam nods her head, and affirms, “Better, certainly. Not who I wish to be but…” When the Madam doesn’t finish the Duke of War and Lady Love grow worried, listening carefully.
The Madam begins again to say, “Thy Lady, I must thank you. I, I owe you. I know I said before that I wanted death, but I know now that those feelings would only be a waste. If it weren’t for you, I would be dead. If weren’t for you, Lord Dread would have taken my head when I offered it. I owe you my life as much as I do the Duke.”
Lady Love develops a slightly sorrowful smile as she embraces the Madam, swift to tell her, “You owe me nothing but to live. I cannot express how happy it makes me that you have found it in yourself to stay with us.” The Madam embraces the Lady as well, and the two share a heartfelt hug.
When they eventually separate, the Lady looks upon the Duke of War, her old flame.
The Lady walks up slowly to the Duke and looks up at him with loving, yet knowing eyes. Her mere presence seems to soften the Duke’s mood as he uncrosses his armored arms.
She playfully teases him, “I see you’ve been especially nice to the Madam.” The blatant insinuation in her words makes Madam Honor attempt to cover her mouth in embarrassment.
The Duke moves his hand behind his head to awkwardly scratch over his helmet. He replies in an embarrassed tone, “It’s not like that, Love, you know I’ve missed you.”
The Lady’s smile softens and she steps closer to him when she admits, “I know, I’ve missed you too.”
“If you could visit afterward,” he trails off as his hands seek hers, which doesn’t surprise her, though it doesn’t excite her either. He continues to say, “I would hope to discuss us, maybe about what we can still have.”
Love and War, all’s fair between them for the moment, at least that’s what the Duke believes. If only he knew.
The Duke then apologizes, “I should also say I’m sorry for not being there for you when you needed me.”
“Oh?” the Lady sounds with apparent confusion.
The Duke clarifies with a similar tone of confusion. “Not, being there when Lady Hate attacked you.” The look of realization on the Lady’s face confuses the Duke, but he ignores it. “I should have been able to protect you. I can’t imagine how terrible it must have been living under Lord Dread after being savaged by that witch.”
The Lady is shocked by the Duke’s words against her Lord but is stopped from saying anything by the Incarnation of the hour.
“Don’t worry, War, I’d bet that Dread has been nothing but not a gentleman,” the crudely toned Lady Hate announces as she appears in clouds of lightning beside where Lady Love appeared.
She continues to taunt the uninformed Duke of War by saying, “I’m sure he never touched her no matter how much she wanted him to. Showed her everything except the one part of him I know is fun.” The Lady Hate’s new black dress covers her arms before falling into a plunging neckline, readily showing that she holds no scars from her fight with the Lord Dread.
The Duke of War pays her words no mind, believing nothing of what she implies despite how true they may actually be.
Lady Hate makes a come hither gesture to Lady Love, telling her, “Don’t you think you should be over here? Your spot is next to me, not the lovesick knight.” Lady Love grows tense remembering her last harrowing bout with Lady Hate.
The Duke is swift to move Lady Love behind him in an obvious sign of protection. He tells Lady Love, “There is an empty spot next to me that won’t be used.” The spot to his right was Lord Guilt’s, and he will not be returning. Then as a warning to Lady Hate, “You will not be coming near her again.”
“Who’s going to stop me?” Lady Hate chimes with a befuddled grin, as if the Duke of War were currently the only one willing to keep her from her sister.
She shows a complete lack of respect for the Duke’s power, which admittedly isn’t as great as hers.
Still, the Duke responds strongly with, “I will, gladly.” Without further instigation, he reaches for his new mace, a more blunt and tubular weapon, the Malice.
When he does that, Madam Honor moves her hand to her sword, the Mercy, a lighter sword, skinnier than her original, but no less sharp. The Madam is ready to fight alongside the Duke.
Death raises her voice first, bellowing to all three, “Enough! Any fighting will be ended by Life and me, no matter who starts.”
This threat makes the Madam take her hand off of her sword, but the Duke remains hesitant as he transitions out of a fighting stance.
Lady Hate, the troublemaker, gives no heed to Death. I notice her intent before Death does, when she dashes in the Duke’s direction I manifest a wall between them.
Lady Love still screams out in fright before she sees my protective wall, and because of that Lady Hate doesn’t make contact with it.
As soon as Lady Love screams, when Lady Hate travels a second yard forward, a dark form forces her back with a strike of his backhand.
Lady Hate quickly recovers to her feet in a transformation from a gas back to her normal form.
She remarks, “Deja vu.”
Before she can counter attack she is encased in a box similar to my wall. I notice that Death threw it up.
Lady Love’s second defender, Lord Dread fully materializes in the middle of our incomplete circle.
Calm and cool as ever, his next threat to Lady Hate sounds more capable than the Duke’s. “Threaten Lady Love again, and this time I will take your head.”
Lady Hate slams her fists against her prison and threatens the Lord. “I wouldn’t talk so high and mighty. I remember beating you half to death until the tramp decided to help you.”
“Enough!” Death yells out. “If I have to repeat myself again, Hate, that box will start shrinking. What will you do then?” With that threat, Death makes a closed fist that also begins to glow.
Lady Hate realizes the situation she’s in, and slowly removes her hands from her prison wall.
With false coolness, she holds her hands up in mocking submission. “Fine, I’ll behave myself,” then in an incredibly mocking voice of a little girl, “I’ll behave, mummy.”
Death warns Lady Hate, “Continue to act like a child, and you will be caged like an animal, do you understand me?”
Death has run her last nerve with Lady Hate, and she’s only been here for less than a minute. I assume this is a new record.
In plain seriousness, Lady Hates swears, “Fine, I won’t threaten anyone, swear on my life, and hope to die.” Even still she finds ways to push Death’s buttons.
Regrettably, with a deep inhale and a heavy sigh, Death releases Lady Hate. Lady Hate walks slowly back to her space, blatantly showcasing her intent to behave herself, until she remarks, “I do retain the right to flirt with tall, dark, and stoic at least. No one said I couldn’t make little Love jealous.”
The Duke mutters to Lady Love, “I can’t imagine why she thinks that will bother you.”
The poor lad.
Lord Dread turns his back to Lady Hate, content that Death can hold the delinquent Incarnation back. He handily ignores the Lady’s catcalls and come-hither gestures.
As he does so he looks to see Lady Love standing beside the Duke of War. He doesn’t become jealous of the Duke, he makes no notion of having any claim to Lady Love. He simply wants her safe, and when she nods her head towards him in a knowing thanks, he nods back and confuses the Duke.
Lord Dread takes his place where he stands alone because idealistically he would have the Duchess of Despair to his left between him and King Good, and the Duke of Destruction to his right between him and Lady Love.
Thinking on it now, I notice that Lord Dread didn’t appear from his position, but directly in front of Lady Hate. He didn’t arrive in such a timely fashion from the invitation. He came because he knew Lady Love needed protection. How far he must be willing to go if he will blindly come to the Nothingness over her cries.
Now all that is left is the Duchess of Desire, and King Evil, who should still be together.
With bated breath, we waited for the last two. Most of us waited in silence, with Lady Hate making a point to annoy each and every one of us with incessant whistling.
Eventually, the Duke of War grows so annoyed by her, that he demands to know, “What problem do you have with us? What have we done to you that we don’t deserve our sanity?”
Lady Hate crosses her arms as she looks upon the Duke with narrow eyes.
In a tone that shows her complete lack of care, she informs him, “You? I don’t care about bothering anyone but Love.” Then with a sarcastic voice and flirty eyes to Lord Dread, “Though if you were hot and bothered I wouldn’t mind.”
The Duke, still puzzled, asks Lady Hate, “Why do you insist on trying to spur jealousy over Dread? It doesn’t make any sense.”
Lady Hate chuckles and tries to keep herself from laughing. She remarks to me, which catches me off guard, “Life, it seems that War has inherited your cluelessness. I can see how that might have pushed Love away.”
This comment makes the Duke growl and clench his fist. Lady Love places a hand on his shoulder and Madam Honor instinctively mutters his name worriedly.
Lady Hate takes no care for his anger as she continues, “There can’t be much of a relationship between two fools. I guess-”
“Hate,” Lady Love interrupts. Calling upon everyone’s attention, she steps in front of the Duke of War and seeks out Lady Hate’s gaze.
Lady Hate tilts her head curiously after Lady Love seeks out her attention. She replies with a simple, “Yes, Love?”
Lady Love asks her a simple question, “What do you desire from me?”
Lady Hate stares at Lady Love for several seconds too many to be normal. She does not maintain the sinister smile or her uncaring, empty eyes.
She looks at Lady Love and answers, “Hate, I want you to hate, do you hate me?”
“No,” Lady Love answers.
“Then my game must continue,” Lady Hate affirms.
As Lady Hate finishes speaking, the last Duchess begins to manifest in bending light beside her.
When the Duchess of Desire appears with nothing but an expression of agitation and frigidness, Death becomes worried. The Duchess looks upon us all as we wait for her to speak. She knows who we want to know about, and all she has to tell us is, “He’s moved on from his sad portion of depression. Now he’s transitioned to his asinine portion of depression. Do not expect him to be sober.”
Death, with a very worried tone tries to ask the Duchess, “When will he be com-” but his appearance interrupts her.
Flames erupt in a circle in the space between Lady Justice and Sir Peace. Flames rise to manifest the Incarnation of Evil, from his toes to his head. He wears all white, from his trousers to his tall collared sweater. His eyes are closed when he is completely here. His eyes open to show how red they are and how his veins pulsate around them as if he were ill.
Then his right-hand lifts to his lips to place a burning cylinder of paper between them. He inhales it, then blows smoke before saying, “Nothing like marijuana in the morning.”
“It’s the afternoon,” Sir Peace is swift to correct.
King Evil replies, “Even better.”
Lady Justice asks, “How did you even acquire that?”
“I have a stash leftover over from the Regamorph days,” he informs the Lady. Then as he takes a moment to look at his depressant, he wonders out loud, “I wonder what humans would do if they had this stuff.”
Since everyone left was present, I made an attempt to begin. “Now that we are all here, I think it best that I start with the fact that there will be no reparations that will be made by any sides. We’re not forcing anyone to make payment or owe a debt to anyone else. With that said-”
I am interrupted by his Majesty, who finds me boring and begins to walk away.
Death is quick to call to him, “Evil, where are you going?” As he walks away from the circle, everyone turns to watch him as he ignores his mother. “Evil, come back here!”
His Majesty calls back, “In a moment, mother!” He is walking towards a current and begins walking upward, floating without his wings.
He places his roll back into his mouth and leans into a current. The tip of his drug begins to smoke from the current of the Nothingness. He pulls back and takes it out of his mouth as he blows smoke.
His face squeezes inward as if he ate something sour.
“Wow, that was a good hit, better than a hit from a lighter.” Then he places it back in his mouth as he walks back to the circle.
As his Majesty begins to walk back to us, I seek to start again. “As I was saying, we shouldn’t be laying blame. Such thinking would only-” I find my attention stolen as his King Evil sits down on the ground and continues to, ‘take hits,’ of his, whatever it is.
As I stare at him along with the others, he eventually notices and looks back up at me. He asks, “What?” as if he has no idea what he is doing.
Lady Justice then kneels down beside his Majesty, and gestures towards the roll in his lips. She asks, “May I?”
His Majesty looks her up and down, inspecting her wounds before offering it to her. “Be my guest,” he offers.
When he hands it to her, she takes it and holds it away from her face. Without standing straight, she makes him watch as she flicks off the burning end and crushes the rest of it in her hand, all while boring into him with her eyes. Then she stands tall as the Duchess of Desire mouths thanks to her.
His Majesty comments, “Well, that wasn’t rude or anything.” Then he pulls out another roll of his drug from his pocket and lights it with a flame emitting from his finger. “It’s not like I have a limited supply, you know, have to make it last,” he adds.
Finally, Death asks of him with politeness and obvious worry, “Evil, will you please listen. This is important.”
King Evil stops what he’s doing for a moment to look at his mother with his bloodshot eyes. He takes the smoking roll from his mouth and says, “Of course, of course.”
Everyone feels a weight fall off their shoulders as it seems he is moving to his feet to continue peacefully. We are all disappointed and on edge when he begins to remark, “It’s very important for me to hear exactly why it is I don’t owe Good anything. I mean, I honestly thought he would want my house to go along with my wings. Why not complete the set so he can add to his collection of ash.”
Lady Hate rolls her eyes and loudly complains, “Here it starts.”
His Majesty does not let her words go, as he verbally attacks her by saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, am I bothering you, my Lady? It’s so terrible that while you sat in your castle like a loser no one came to invite you to fight on their side. We all know you’ve been dying to have someone cut off your head.”
When Lady Hate doesn’t respond, rather uncharacteristically, he adds, “What? Nothing smart to say now? Might as well, seems like it’s your only chance to match wits since you’re one of the few buffoons without any power of intelligence.”
Then as he brings his marijuana to his lips to inhale, he comments, “Not like you could have anything intelligent to say otherwise.”
“Alright, that’s enough, brother,” King Good calls out from across the circle. Drawing the attention of everyone, including a harrowing glare from King Evil.
King Good adds, “Don’t release your frustrations on her, it’s me you’re mad at.”
King Evil shakes his head with a false smile. Then as he laughs he places a hand over his heart as he assures the other Majesty, “Mad? At you? No, how could I be mad at my brother?” Then he takes another inhale of his smoke and begins to speak more erratically. “It’s not like I have anything to be mad at. I brought this upon myself, didn’t I?” he carries on as he gestures towards himself. “No, no, it couldn’t be you, you’re Good, remember.
“And I’m Evil, aren’t I?”
King Good maintains a stoic face, doing his best to ignore his brother’s goading. “Listen, I know it doesn’t mean much, but I am sorry. I do regret what I did.”
“You think your words don’t mean much? Well, brother, your words don’t mean anything really, except maybe to Guilt,” he comments with a gesture to the ground. “I guess he would appreciate the help coming back to life.”
Not assisting in calming the quarrel, Lady Justice adds to it with a remark. “It seems I’m not the only one King Good seems to be making enemies of nowadays.”
King Evil turns to her to ask rhetorically, “You too?” Then as a twisting of the dagger, he adds, “If Despair were here, the three of us could make a guild. Those sacked by King Good, so we can all hear about how sorry he is.”
“Is there nothing that can sate you?” a surprising new voice adds.
King Evil cocks his head, and turns to his right. He makes eye contact with Sir Gratitude. “Sorry,” he begins, “Didn’t catch that. Have something to add, old man? I see you managed to crawl out of your bed. Trying to save Death the trip?”
“Evil,” Death gasps over his comment.
Sir Gratitude doesn’t allow it to phase him. He begins to rant at King Evil, “Go on, go on, keep going. Keep raging towards everyone around you as if you have done nothing wrong. Well, guess what your Majesty,” he spews with disgust, “you did do something wrong, all of you, each and everyone one of you who fought in this war.”
Lady Hate comments, “So not me.”
“Shut it!” the Sir yells as he points his finger and begins walking in the middle of all of us. “Everyone here had a hand to play. You all had something to do with…” As the Sir pointed his finger towards everyone, portions of it began to crumble, gathering gasps from several, and a knowing look from Sir Peace. He finishes, “with this.”
“Gratitude,” King Good gasps as he takes a step toward his old friend.
Sir Gratitude is swift to order him to, “Save it, I don’t need help from you. You didn’t listen as much as everyone else. No one here listens or realizes. Everyone here would rather just punch each other than talk anything out. You all make your weapons and your armies, and you don’t have them just to lay around. You wanted to use them, none of you were opposed to fighting.”
King Evil, enraged, yells at Sir Gratitude, “How dare you?! That’s all I did!” He takes several steps towards Sir Gratitude to point his finger at the old and frail shell. “While you were off dying I offered him,” in reference to King Good, “a chance to end this at every turn! And he said no.”
“And did you offer that choice to anyone else?” Sir Gratitude challenges. “Did you offer that choice to the Duchess when she came to your stead? No, you’d rather humiliate her and make her out to be a failure.
“How about Lord Dread, did you offer him your hand when he came to you? No, you gave him and Lord Guilt an arena to fight in, and now look who’s dead.
“When you went to Death’s side, did you ask her to talk to Life, or did you devise plans on how to best everyone alongside her, like mother and son?”
When King Evil has nothing to add but heavy gasps and angry breathing, the Sir simply ends with, “That’s what I thought.”
Then the Sir turns to everyone, he attacks everyone. “No one here made an effort towards nonviolence. No one. You all either plotted, pillaged, or hid behind walls or another’s sword. No one did anything. No one did anything to stop this.” Then as the Sir looks to his hands, he drops his cane to see how his hands are blowing away like dust. “Stop me from…” he trails off.
“My end is near.”
I offer Sir Gratitude my hand, and tell him, “Let me help you.”
“No,” he hisses as he pulls away violently. With a look of disgust, and a tone, all the same, the Sir continues, “You two, you and Death, you are most guilty. It has always been you two, fighting, arguing, driving wedges between us. None of this would have happened if you realized the effect you have on us all.”
Death and I do nothing but look to each other, as we try to understand specifically what the Sir’s final point is. We already know for ourselves that we are at fault.
“You two act as if you do not both rule over us all, but you do. We do not only listen to one, not until you forced us to choose. You both even make designs upon the mortals. Only a fool believes that Death does not control the minds of the living any more than Life.”
Death is quick to rebuttal, “You are confused, Gratitude. I have no control-”
Sir Gratitude finishes for her, “Over their appearance, their biology? That’s true, but let’s be honest, what differences would you have made? You need to stop acting as if they don’t worship you as they do him,” he points out as he gestures towards me.
“They build religions around you, worship you, do whatever they can to cement your good graces, yet you believe that you need more power. Death, your word already overrules Life’s, stop acting like you don’t.”
I can tell that his words strike Death deep. She brings a hand to her chest as she tries to understand what exactly she would want to do with more control in the world.
Then Sir Gratitude’s frame begins to turn to dust. He begins to fade away. He looks to us all with finality.
He informs us, “I am dying, and make no mistake. It is because of all of you. None of you are grateful, neither Creator nor any Incarnation. You all have power, immortality, family, you all have everything that counts. Not one of you has any Gratitude. You have all killed me.
“I will not be here anymore to give you solutions, suggestions, or advice. You must come up with an answer for your wrongs, your sins. You must decide how to fix us yourselves.”
Then as he fades away, his descent into Absentness, as he turns to dust, all he has left to say as his face blows away with wind, is “Goodbye.”
With that final word, he disperses, prompting others to reach out, to scream for him, to beg for him back. Darker souls look away with regret, strong souls realize that they should know better and wonder what they did wrong. One peaceful soul looks on as if this was always meant to be. Everyone knows that they feel one thing.
I stop floating above the others, and I sink to my knees. I sit up and just look at the dust before us all. This wasn’t the end of a battle, this was slow and painful, and everyone knew it was happening, all without lifting a finger to change it. We all thought that simply fighting harder would fix the problem. That was not that answer at all.
I feel a hand on my shoulder, I look up to see Death looking down at me. She sinks to her knee beside me and wraps her arms around my shoulders. She leans her head over mine, and she tells us, “Something must change.”
“But what?” I ask.
“You,” a rather quiet voice says. We all look to him, standing stoically, Sir Peace. He continues to stand as if he knew this was going to happen all along. He seems neither surprised nor overcome, only disappointed, as if this were inevitable.
“What do you mean?” I ask him.
Sir Peace lifts his eyes from where Sir Gratitude once stood to look me in my eyes. “What else can I mean? You two, you and Death. Sir Gratitude made it very clear, that we only split because you two split. That dynamic must change, that power must be taken away.” Everyone around becomes confused, they don’t understand what he means. Not about us being the problem, but how such a dynamic changes.
Lady Justice turns to Sir Peace as she kneels on her right leg, and attempts to hold back her guilty tears. She states more so than asks, “You believe power should lie with someone else.” Her intelligence comes out to match Sir Peace. “You have something in mind.”
“I have an idea,” Sir Peace admits. “Life and Death must have their influence over us decreased. I can only think of one way.”
Lady Hate, growing impatient remarks, “Well, if you would tell us now as you hold us in suspense.”
Sir Peace then sighs heavily, and moves his hand to his chin. He’s thinking of a solution right here, right now. He speaks as his ideas form. “There’s only one thing that influences us as Life and Death do.”
“The mortals,” Lord Dread finishes gravely. He seems unhappy with the idea of anything having to do with their kind.
Sir Peace agrees, “Yes, the mortals.” He turns to Death and I to explain, “The mortals give us all power, hence influencing us. You influence them. Maybe you shouldn’t be the ones watching over them, holding influence over us directly and indirectly.” Then as if he were in a moment of genius, Sir Peace exclaims, “How did nobody notice this before? Life and Death are our superiors, but with so much control over mortals, there’s no escape. Even our source of power is under their control.”
As I think of what Sir Peace is explaining, it is hard not to see the lines that can be drawn between Death and I to mortals and the Incarnations. We control what fuels them. We destroy and make the mortals at a whim, yet the Incarnations are the ones who use them as a source of power when they do not help each other. Would Gratitude still be here if there were enough mortals to fuel him when his brethren did not? The question is too painful to deeply consider.
Madam Honor grows hesitant with where this line of questioning is going. “If not Life and Death to be the ones to watch over the mortals, the humans, then there is only us. We cannot all agree on anything any better than Life and Death.”
Sir Peace agrees, “Yes, such a thing would be foolish. We certainly can’t all give our opinion on something as important as all undivine life and expect any progress. We could perhaps,” then he hesitates to think for himself for a moment before finishing in a question, “take turns?”
The Duke of War is swift to argue that, “I fear any world at the complete mercy of Hate, or Dread.” His insults prompt angry looks from the Lady, and dead eyes from the Lord, until he realizes, and even admits begrudgingly, “Or even War.”
Madam Honor adds to that dilemma, “Such a problem is as apparent even with one such as me. I can hardly motivate a sentient race on my own.”
Lady Justice adds, “And with only you there, any connection to the rest of us could be blocked. There must be more than one.”
“There should be two!” Sir Peace exclaims. “That’s it, we could be pairs, rotating and sharing power to maintain equality among us, but also balance among ourselves and the mortals.”
Hesitantly, obviously not being so keen on the idea, King Evil remarks, “This whole system seems pretty well thought out for something we just came up with. Too well if you ask me.”
Sir Peace is swift to glare at his Majesty before telling him, “Nobody did ask you.” The silence between the two only hangs for a few moments before the Sir turns back to the rest of us. “If we’re all in agreement we should make pairs.”
As they begin to speak amongst themselves, Death whispers to me, “I feel like the rug is being ripped from under me. I didn’t expect this. I knew there needed to be a change, but I… I wasn’t ready to be made to feel so dated, so guilty.” She leans back to rest her forehead against the back of my head.
I bring my hand to the one she lays on my shoulder, and agree, “I understand the feeling, feeling my power being ripped from me is painful, yet relieving in a way. I guess it feels nice to not have a responsibility, as guilty as I feel over its cause.”
“Do you really think it’s all our fault?” Death asks me. “Is it really us that’s the problem? I keep hearing it, and the facts make sense, and I don’t know how to dispute them. Yet, I fought a war where I was so supposed to be the wronged, now suddenly I never was? Suddenly I was always the wrongdoer. Is this how you felt all this time?”
“In a way,” I admit, “but I guess one almost always sees themselves as the hero in their own story. Even still, in true conflict, there aren’t so clearly defined goods and evils. There are many lessons I have learned too late, that is definitely one of them.”
Death and I watch as they deliberate, and think about who fits well with whom. Death thinks to ask, “Do you think they can do better than us?”
“Better? Probably not at first, which is probably why it is best that humanity is so young,” I admit. “Though I do believe that most of them will grow better. If they truly adhere to these rules, they will be given time to reflect and improve where we couldn’t, and they’ll have examples outside of themselves to learn from.”
Death reckons, “It is starting to sound like we never had a chance.”
I don’t know if I agree. I think we must have had a chance if we were able to ruin it.
Death and I cease our private conversation to see how the Incarnations are doing.
Madam Sadness makes the flawed suggestion, “Maybe Sir Happiness and I could be a pair.” The hope in her eyes for the chance to reconnect with her brother is still heartbreaking after all these years. For once it is not her brother who rejects her chances.
Sir Peace is quick to explain, “That’s a terrible idea. We want pairs who will not only get along but make fluid decisions together. How could you two do that when you are polar opposites?”
Madam Sadness dips her head in slight shame over how obvious his reasoning is. She was just too hopeful, and thus blind to it.
Sir Happiness, in an uncharacteristically kind act to her, places a hand on her shoulder. He tells her, “It’s alright. You didn’t know.” She smiles a little over this.
Quickly, the Incarnations break into groups to discuss among each other, some making bids to each other, trying to find a pair. It was apparently recognized while Death and I were talking that there shouldn’t be pairs of two negative or two positive Incarnations. That would be dangerous and redundant.
The Duke of War from the onset pulls Lady Love away, which does earn a sideways glance from Madam Honor.
The Duke asks the Lady, “Be my partner. We know we can work together, we’ve been companions before, and there is no one who can calm me as you do.”
The Lady makes a hesitant face over that remark. She remembers having to quell him. While never finding it difficult, she found it cumbersome and depressing. She never understood what drove him, and his given reasons never sated her.
The Duke sees this hesitation on her face and tries to stop it by saying, “Not that you would ever have to. I have been trying to maintain my own temper, and I’ve grown quite well at it. If you don’t believe me, ask the Madam, she knows.”
Madam Honor has been eavesdropping and is still caught off guard. She finds herself speechless, but in a stumble of attempts, she agrees that the Duke is certainly more well-tempered than she would have thought.
These words did not reach the Lady, as she couldn’t help but gaze towards another Lord who has her heart. Her gaze goes unnoticed as the Duke is blinded by his love for the Lady.
The Lord in question stands alone, much as Lady Hate does, both for their lack of any kinship with the other Incarnations. Lord Dread has no one he wishes to speak to, or at least no one he doesn’t already believe to be taken.
My son, my dutiful son, King Good, sees that between, Lord Dread and Lady Hate are two powerful and nearly uncontrollable threats to humanity. The two Incarnations are darker than the rest, with very few with the power to maintain them. He realizes that it is his duty to sacrifice his own happiness for the greater good.
His Majesty approaches the dark Lord, and the dark Lord looks upon him with disinterest. His Majesty is swift with his pitch.
“You are a great force to be reckoned with, thus there are so few who have the ability to hold you back. To leave you to anyone else would spell doom, so I believe it necessary for us to be partners. When necessary I will be there to restrain you, physically if need be.”
If Lord Dread is angry over the insinuations of my son, or anything about the proposition before him, he does not show it. I think he recognizes the necessity of such a thing. That his way of life has necessitated the watchful eye over him, despite how he may resent it.
As Lady Love watches the Lord be offered a partnership by his Majesty, she realizes that her first and truly only choice may be taken.
She turns to the Duke and apologizes. “I’m sorry, War, but there is another I wish to be my partner.”
With shock, and hurt in his voice, he asks her, “Who?”
Then she turns her back and runs from the Duke, she runs to the one she wants. As she does so, all of the Incarnations slowly switch their gaze to her, confused as to what she could possibly be doing, except for a certain few who already know.
The Duchess cheers her on.
As Lady Love makes her way, it quickly becomes clear that she can only be heading toward one, and they all become worried, confused, and terrified.
Terrified for her. They believe that she is asking to be killed.
As Lady Love runs, she moves around King Good and jumps into the arms of the Lord she wants. She wraps her arms around his neck, and presses her cheek against his chest, all the while my son stares in shock. Already, he is thinking about how he will attempt to save her when the Lord assuredly attacks her in rage.
The Lady calls out for all to hear, “I want Dread!” She practically snuggles herself against him to be closer.
I hear Death gasp behind me, utterly shocked, she does not know. I look back to see her show a face of fear similar to when she saw King Good’s attack on his brother. I see her raising her hand already preparing, believing that she must save the loving soul from such a silly mistake. I quickly grab her hand and pull it down, giving her a smile.
“It’s not what you think,” I assure her as she grows more confused than she ever has been in her life.
Silence befalls everyone else, and King Good stands still and tense. After all remain quiet–the Duchess of Desire only because she finds everyone so humorous–his Majesty holds out his arm.
He says with much fear and hesitation, “Lady Love if you would, please take my hand.” As he offers out her hand to her, she sees it and childishly shakes her head as she clutches ever more so to the Lord.
Then the dark Lord raises his right hand, and the rest all fear what it may do.
Then it does what no one expected. His hand merely rests behind her waist and holds her closer.
In a tone softer than any of the others have ever heard from him, the Lord Dread asks the Lady, “Are you sure?” She nods her head happily as she smiles up at him and shows her teeth.
I stand tall back to my feet, bringing Death back to her feet with me, and speak to the rest. “To inform the majority of you unaware, during the time Lady Love spent under Lord Dread’s banner, they grew very close. They are especially fond of each other.”
The Duke of War is the first to speak with confusion, “You mean… Hate wasn’t lying?”
Lady Hate grins from ear to ear to see the Duke so dumbfounded. She claps once as she uses her words to stab into him, “Is your shell of denial finally shattering? Do be careful so it doesn’t blind you, then Lady Love will really find you cumbersome.”
King Evil breaks out into loud obnoxious laughter, saying, “Now I’ve seen it all!”
The Duke then begins to walk towards the star couple as they can’t seem to do anything else but stare into each other’s eyes.
Sir Peace sees this situation and finds himself incredibly distraught by it. “This is not good, not good at all. I can’t possibly believe that Lady Love can restrain a brute such as Lord Dread. If we allow those two to be a pair, the world would die under their banner.”
During this time, the Duke walks over to the couple and interrupts their gaze. He tells the Lady, “This is not possibly what’s for the best. You cannot control him, he is certainly not the better match for you.” Then he reaches the Lady’s arm and pulls her back to face him. What he does specifically is pull her away from her Lord, all while making her wince ever so slightly in pain.
The Duke tries to explain, “This is not your proper match. Love, please reconsider me-”
His sentence is cut off by the hand that crushes his throat.
Lord Dread, filled with rage upon seeing the Duke bring any harm to his Lady, grabs the Duke in his left hand. He squeezes the Duke’s throat and holds him over his head, lifting the massive being off the ground as if he were nothing.
As the Duke clutches the Lord’s hand, the Lord threatens with great malice, “You may not place your hands on her at your leisure. She made her choice, respect it, or you will not live to make another.” The Lord is then quick to wrap his other hand around the Lady’s shoulder and shield her.
As the Lord squeezes the life from the Duke, only my dutiful son is not too enraptured to act. He summons a sword and rests it against the Lord’s neck.
King Good tells the Lord, “Release him, Dread, now. You don’t want to have this fight.”
The Lord doesn’t release the Duke but only seems to tighten his grip, all the while looking sideways at his Majesty with a look of death. The white pupils now bare into his Majesty’s soul as the Lord shows without words that he is fully prepared to attempt to slay his Majesty in a rage.
It is the Lady who calms him. Lady Love reaches her hand to the Lord’s cheek, the one away from her, and moves his gaze towards her.
She assures him, “The Duke did not mean to hurt me. It was an accident, Dread. Please let him go, don’t fight anyone.” With this, the Lord’s grip loosens, but what convinces him to release the Duke are the Lady’s worried words. “Please, my Lord, I couldn’t bear to see you hurt again.”
This care for him, the care that no one else has seemed to have is the key that the Lady uses to control the Lord. With this, the Lord releases the Duke.
By throwing him across the ground.
As he slides on his back away from them, away from the Lady he loves, the Lord remarks, “He should still learn his place.”
Madam Honor moves to kneel by the Duke’s side to see if his old wounds paralyze him with this new exposure to pain. She helps him sit up, and the Duke can do nothing but stare at the Lord who holds the one he wants on his arm. He sees her as something rather than the Lord who wishes to protect her as who.
With that, King Good draws back his sword but does not disperse it. Lord Dread turns his head to his Majesty and clenches his fist to summon the Terror to his left hand.
He warns his Majesty, “If you wish, I will oblige.” The expression of anger and hate on the Incarnation of fear itself is enough to make any other sheathe his sword. His Majesty is no different as he rids himself of his.
The Duchess of Desire turns to remark to Sir Peace, “What was that that you said earlier? That she couldn’t control him, as reductive as that sounds?” The Duchess believes that there is a firm limit to the Lady’s influence over the Lord, but she cannot help but rub such a false predilection in the Sir’s face.
Sir Peace admits, “Maybe I was too quick to doubt.”
The Duke of War turns his head to the Sir to question him, “You would leave her in his hands?”
The Sir responds kindly with the same condescension, “Well, he has proven to be a more fit protector than you.”
The Duke became speechless at that remark.
“Regardless, it’s clear to me, War, that you need to be restrained so as to not get yourself killed by your betters. We’ve lost more Dukes of War than anyone else, so getting between a Lord and his Lady isn’t going to do you any favors.”
Then with a gesture to the Madam besides the Duke, the Sir insults, “It seems your manners haven’t improved as much as you would like either. Instead of vying for one you can’t have, show some respect for the one who ran to your aid.”
The Duke is rather stunned by the Sir’s deconstruction of his behavior. Madam Honor, as she helps the Duke to his feet, is swift to clarify, “He has been kind to me, should I not return the favor?”
The Duchess of Desire reminds her, “There’s nothing wrong with being polite, just as there is nothing wrong with calling him your friend.” With that, the Madam and the Duke turn to look at each other, not quite sure of what the others are getting at. “You two already seem to get along fine, maybe you two would work well as your own pair.”
The Madam looks up at the Duke, whose eyes are still covered by his helmet. She tells him, “I would not be opposed to such a partnership.”
When the Duke seems hesitant, the Duchess reminds him, “Do care to remember that this is not a matchmaker. You are not choosing your romantic partner here.”
The Duke turns to glare at the Duchess. While his face cannot be seen, his annoyance can be felt. “I am aware, and I can honestly say that there is no one else I would be willing to pair with than the Madam.”
Sir Peace clasps his hands together and takes this new pairing as a victory for himself. “Well, now we have two pairs. Does anyone else have any more ideas?”
Lady Justice points out, “We still have four dead who are not here to make pairs. Are we to make pairs for them? How are we to enforce that?”
Death adds to the discussion topic for the first time by expressing, “As always, I would raise the next Reincarnations. I can raise them with their pairs, or at least with their partner in mind.”
The Lady is none too pleased with such a proposition. “Maybe they should be raised by their partners, better to escape your influence, that is the point really.”
Death recoils back to herself at the Lady’s rebuttal to her offer. The idea of another caring for the Reincarnations seems foreign to her. The role of mother is one she has always held dear and now it is removed from her.
I do remind the Lady, “I believe it would be wise to wait before confirming such deliberations. There may very well be a pair of Reincarnations that would have no one to raise them with that line of thinking.”
Sir Peace compromises between the Lady and I, by saying, “If such a thing happens then Death can raise them as she has in the past.” This possibility brightens Death’s face.
Having crossed into a discussion about the dead, the Duchess of Desire lays a clear claim to who her partner is going to be. “Speaking on the deceased, it should be clear that Despair will be with me.”
The Duke of War chides her, asking, “I thought we weren’t choosing romantic partners, Desire.”
The Duchess is swift to snap at the Duke by reminding him, “This is not about romance, fool. This is about me being the only one who has ceased her episodes, without snapping her neck.”
With an actual tone of honest worry, King Evil does pose one question. “What if the Reincarnation does not take to you as others have? You would be in mortal danger, you can’t stand against the vortex, Desire.”
The Duchess assures his Majesty, “While I appreciate the concern, no such thing has happened with all of her many Reincarnations. I see no reason this should be different considering she will grow by my side anyway.” His Majesty doesn’t generate an expression of relief or trust in her expectations.
Suddenly and strangely, Lord Dread raises his hand, which catches everyone’s attention.
Sir Peace looks upon him curiously, not sure why the Lord feels the need to interject or to raise his hand. “You have something to add Lord Dread?”
As Lady Love looks upwards towards him with a curious expression, he clarifies, “There aren’t supposed to be two negatives together. Desire and Despair can’t be partners.”
Immediately, the Lord prompts unintended giggles from Lady Hate and King Evil.
The Duchess of Desire scoffs in complete insult. She angrily reminds the Lord, “I am not a negative!”
“I disagree,” the Lord refutes, “is Lust not considered a sin?”
The Duchess’s nostrils flair over the Lord’s comments. “I am more than just lust, you savage, you, you-”
Lady Love tries to quell her friend and Lord by saying, “There is no need for insults, Desire, he is simply mistaken.”
“No, I’m not,” the Lord assures, “you don’t have to defend me, my Lady, I can have a peaceful argument.”
“Yes, but can she?” the Lady reminds him, much to his exasperated realization.
“Excuse me?!” the Duchess scoffs at the two of them.
As they go back and forth, King Evil playfully comments, “I could listen to this all day.”
Lady Justice does not allow his Majesty to escape his own fate though. She reminds him, “Don’t forget, your Majesty, you must have a partner as well.”
His Majesty attempts to challenge her to force her retreat by questioning, “Oh, and who should that be? You? Are you even done mourning Sir Gratitude? I can still see the tears of guilt in the corner of your eye.”
The Lady is certainly caught off guard by his question. “Sir Gratitude? He just died before my eyes. Am I supposed to just magically get over it on command? I’m sorry I can’t be as selfish and cold as you.”
His Majesty scoffs at her, “I can’t even say that you would be restraining me and not the other way around, with you and your rigid terms of law and order.”
A third opinion chimes in to suggest, “Maybe you two should find out.”
Both the Lady and his Majesty turn to look back at Sir Peace. The Lady goes, “Excuse me?” in a tone that reveals both shock and disapproval.
The Sir explains to the Lady, “There is no one else with the strength to stand against a King, and your genius certainly outclasses his. With your new experience against King Good you should have what you need to restrain him if need be, and honestly…
“He could use more direction in his life.”
Then the Sir turns to his Majesty to explain, “And King Evil, if you really judge her ideas of law and order so harshly, why not aim to change her ways yourself? Maybe even give the mortals who take after you a greater chance of survival. Think of it as a way to ensure your power.
“Besides, who else would you have to spend your time with. The only others besides the Lady are Gratitude and me.”
His Majesty takes this into account and reckons, “I would severely despise having to spend any time with you boring sods.”
The Sir does little to hide his insult over his Majesty’s insult. Then his Majesty looks over at the Lady, but lower on her stature.
The Lady notices and places her hand over her chest as she exclaims, “Excuse me.”
His Majesty does admit, “I must say that she is much more agreeable to look at than my remaining choices.” Blatantly objectified, Lady Justice stares daggers at King Evil.
Sir Peace then applauds himself, happily informing everyone, “Then it is settled, you two will be our next pair. Now to protect against more problematic obstacles.” As he says that his eyes wander between Lady Hate and King Good, two powerful and unrestrained personalities.
King Good sees this look from Sir Peace but misunderstands its meaning.
King Good then sets his eyes upon Lady Hate, much for the same reason he approached Lord Dread. He believes himself to be one of the few who can restrain the violent Incarnation, and it is his duty to sacrifice to do so. Before he even reaches the Lady, she is first approached by Sir Happiness, much to her interest.
Sir Happiness doesn’t waste any time and abruptly tells the Lady, “Hate, you are unabashedly cruel, spiteful, and your words cut deeper than the sharpest knife. Yet after spending time thinking, I can think of no more worthy a punishment than to be your partner.”
Madam Sadness overhears and is swift to realize what he is doing. She moves past the others to his side, to stop him from inflicting a pain much too harsh. She grabs his arm to make him face her. “Happy, I know what you are doing. Don’t doom yourself out of guilt.”
The Sir assures his sister, “It’s alright, Sadness. I have been nothing but cruel, selfish, and greedy for far too long. Even after all my mistakes you still spared me and gave me your care when I did nothing to earn it. Hate is who I deserve.” Then he turns to the Lady who brings a finger to her black lips as she considers exactly what she may receive from such a bargain.
Before her, she sees a new toy able and ready to be the victim of her sadistic punishments.
As if reading her mind, the Sir tells her, “I think if, for no other reason, I should be your partner because while you may love nothing, you can be happy. I will keep you happy, and no one knows better than I just how distracting happiness can be.”
Lady Hate moves especially close to the Sir, taking in his form and scent for herself. She runs her hands over his arms as he makes no move to stop her. She inspects him as if he is an item at an auction, deciding whether or not he is worth the purchase.
She develops a devilish grin as she mutters, “This whole arrangement may be more entertaining than I thought. I’d gladly be the whip that gives you your lashes.”
The Madam pulls the Sir away one last time, and pleads with him to reconsider. “I beg of you, don’t do this. You don’t have to punish yourself for me.”
The Sir brings his hand to the Madam’s face as the first truly affectionate thing he has ever done to her. He tells her honestly, “That is why I must. You forgive and forget, but I don’t understand why you do this for me. This is the only way I know that can help me become worthy of such a thing. This is for me… which in itself is still selfish when I say it like that.”
The Lady then pulls him away from the Madam, drawing him in close as she presses his hips to hers. She tells him, “Enough with the self-deprecation, I’m agreeing with this to indulge in your newfound fetish for masochism, not redemption.”
The Sir stares at the Lady with a confused expression on his face. He corrects her, “This is no fetish, Hate.”
“Whatever you want to call it, I’m just here to indulge and enjoy myself,” she tells him as she waves off his words. “You said this was to make me happy, I expect you to fulfill your promise.”
As the Lady holds the Sir in her grasp, the Madam backs away, distraught by how events have turned out. This was not what she wanted for her brother, not at all.
King Good, surprised by this whole interaction, makes a point to speak his mind. “I can’t possibly condone this union. How could Sir Happiness possibly restrain Lady Hate? The Lady challenges even Death on a whim.”
Sir Peace moves to stand beside his Majesty as he grows ever more unhappy with the situation. The Sir places a hand on his Majesty’s shoulders as he speaks. “This doesn’t necessarily have to be about restraint, distraction may work just as well. I mean, how else is one supposed to hold you back if not by distraction or logic?”
The Sir’s words bother his Majesty, prompting him to turn and face the sir with heavy suspicion. He questions the Sir, “Hold me back? What are you implying?” The Sir tilts his head and looks towards his Majesty with pity.
“Good, with all that has happened, can you really say that you can be trusted to not do what you want? You can be just as harmful to the free will of mortals as any other.” His Majesty only grows angry along with his confusion, prompting a quiet laugh from another King close by.
“Good, don’t be so dense. You would push mortals to feel guilt or happiness by doing good things rather than allowing them to find merit in such acts on their own. Or worse you would place your trust in them only to have it broken. With your temper and repulsion to such things, you need someone to rein you in.” Switching tones and trying to avoid the hurt on his Majesty’s face, the Sir turns and presents Madam Sadness as she skulks to herself. “I believe the Madam is the perfect fit to do so such a thing.”
“Me?” she questions as she points to herself. “Why me? I can barely control my brother, let alone a King.”
The Sir reaches for her shoulder to pull her closer to him and his Majesty. He tells them both, “Forget about control for a moment, neither of you two are animals, you two are perfect. You are already friends from during the war and before.” Interesting that he knows that. “Better still Madam, you have learned to understand the logic that rattles inside the minds of your opposites better than any other. Not only that, while in the tone you may seem negative, you are quite calm and caring still. Exactly what his Majesty needs to recognize when he fails to peer inside the souls of others as well as you do.” The Madam looks ahead to share a gaze with his Majesty and is as unsure as he is.
“More than that, Good has the power to help you reach those with clarity. How much easier would it have been to reach Happiness if you had all the power that his Majesty has at your disposal?
The Madam does reckon one fact. To King Good she admits, “I would be lying if I said I don’t know you better than I do the remaining Sirs. I would also be lying if I said that I didn’t call for and receive your help against Sir Happiness. If it weren’t for you I would have never had the chance to overcome and connect with my brother.”
His Majesty wishes to assure Madam Sadness, “Please don’t think of this as if you owe me. I am not here to be your punishment or anything like that, despite what the Sir would have you think.”
“I know,” she replies, “I don’t think you need as much restraint as Peace thinks.”
Sir Peace rolls his eyes over how they speak of him as if he weren’t standing between them. He grumbles, “Alright, with that one done, I guess that leaves only me and three of our dead.”
He proceeds to walk away from the Madam and his Majesty when others seek to question his own pairing.
I myself, wish to know his plans and ask him forwardly. “Sir, who should be your partner? I know you and Lord Guilt worked famously together during the war, but surely you cannot expect Gratitude to control Destruction?”
Sir Peace smiles knowingly, amused by the thought process I maintain. He assures, “No, I actually believe that Gratitude and Guilt are better pairs than I and Guilt. I shall be partnered with Destruction, perhaps teach him manners.”
The others are not shocked by the pairing of Guilt and Gratitude, they make more sense than most of these pairings. Though many grow hesitant over what Destruction can grow to become under the tutelage of Sir Peace. None too many are soon to forget his devious and savaged strategies that carried Death’s side during the war, even after his capture.
The Sir then turns to Death and I, informing us happily, “It seems we are all prepared. Maybe you would like to decide who should go first, simply to stop any infighting.”
Death and I trade looks, having been asked to actually interact with our children for once today. I nod my head and tell her, “I will support any decision you make.”
It does not matter much to me anymore who rules and who does not. There are only a few select pairs who are full who can, and it is not insane to figure out which individuals we would not wish to give power to so soon.
As much as we would adore a world ruled by Lady Love, we cannot trust in her influence over Lord Dread just yet.
The same logic applies to Sir Happiness and Lady Hate.
Lady Justice and King Evil seem just as much ready to jump down each other’s throats as they are to work together at this moment. They need time to become acquainted with each other.
While King Good and Madam Sadness are both level-headed and have a healthy working relationship already, I know that Death has no care to give King Good any power whatsoever. I can’t imagine that she will accept his actions, let alone forgive him any time in the near future, if ever.
That truly only leaves one pairing that Death would think to choose.
“Honor and War,” Death decides.
Sir Peace nods with a sense of understanding. One would think he should be opposed to the Duke of War being among the first to rule over humanity, yet he is content.
King Evil is the first to question this choice. “Is it really so smart to have war be on the minds of humanity so early in their life cycle? I mean unless you want them to destroy each other, then be my guest.”
Death is swift to explain, “I believe that they showcase not only a union between the two sides we once chose but also a capacity to grow new relationships. They were not much of anything to each other before this war, yet now they are likely more agreeable with each other than maybe any of us.
“Now in terms of allowing humanity to be influenced by War, I would remind you all that no species has ever started out violent, that’s how they end.”
With that statement many nod their heads in understanding and agreement.
Then Death adds, almost as a joke, “Not only that, I would be interested to see how humanity kills itself with only sticks and stones.”
With that out of the way, all of the Incarnations now lay their eyes upon the chosen pair, expecting them to say something. When they are caught as unprepared as everyone else would be, Sir Peace offers an idea.
“Madam Honor, maybe as a sign of the end of this war, as a gesture to our peace, you can take back your shield.” His offer reminds me that it truly has been so long since I had my full omniscience.
No more of this shielding of information by certain Incarnations. No more blocking of my insight into the future and spotty knowledge of the present. I think we would all appreciate our full knowledge back for those who have been handicapped.
Madam Honor nods her head in agreement and steps away from the Duke of War, who then steps back from her. She holds her left hand above her head and uses her power to call back her mighty shield.
Flashing lights begin before us, prompting many to cover their eyes as the Nothingness grows dark and bright over and over again. Eventually, the only light around us is that which shines from the circle coming together over the Madam’s head. The light shines in the multicolored way that so many things of our nature do.
Then before we know it, the light from the whiteness around us begins to fade back, and before stands a knight with her shining silver shield. Etched into her shield was the design of a dragon’s head, its scales colored a blood red.
Each of the Incarnations who can claim to have omniscience brings their hands to their heads, including Sir Peace, who brings two fingers to his temple.
He does not have such powers, none of the Madams or Sirs have the capabilities of any godlike abilities. They only come close to omnipotence, their knowledge should be severely lacking?
So why does he react?
King Evil does break my concentration by blurting out, “So they are called elevators!”