Challenge #02369-F179: A Big ChoicesteemCreated with Sketch.

in fiction •  3 months ago 

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"You have a darkness in you, that’s all too clear. You can imagine yourself doing terrible things. But that's just your imagination. For all the looming intimidation factor, when you act, I can tell you still have standards... however few they may be... and there’s some lines I’m certain even you would refuse to cross."
"Hrmph... You can't know that for sure..."
"I feel it. I have faith in you. Maybe not to always do the right thing, but at least to never do the worst thing." -- Anon Guest

Kobolds generally have one reaction to threatening beings much larger than they are[1]. Run away. In the case of Dragons, they placate obsequiously. Nobody had ever mentioned a Tiefling born to Gargantuans to fulfil a prophecy of devastation... who didn't want to. Higash had a great Greatsword, an expression of dawning horror mixed with abject misery, and a tail that swished like a cat's.

Lady Anthe, keen of eye and insight, realised that this giant was the gentle variety. She could see every single tell of reluctance in that huge body. She knew that that sword wasn't ever going to be set against her some entire minutes before Higash turned and said, "It's a baby..."

The prophecy stated, apparently, that the first act of their demonic hero was to defeat a Dragon before he reached his Manhood. According to the rest of the tribe, even a trash dragon - a kobold - would do. They'd done what they could to make Anthe look savage. Stripping her of her more ornate clothing, tearing up the rest, and spattering her with blood. They'd even given her one of the more traditional Kobold weapons, a Yklwa. Anthe threw it aside and assumed a subjugate posture, exposing her vulnerable underside. "Oh woe is me," she said, "I am defeated by his terrible gaze."

This was not a popular turn of events amongst the tribe members. They roared in anger, bashed their shields with their weapons, and started a chant, "Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!"

Lady Anthe was mildly worried when the sword of Higash hung over her head. For a moment, just a moment, she briefly considered scrabbling up his leg and doing uncomfortable things on the inside of his loincloth. Kobolds could, if they so wished, be very sharp in inconvenient places.

However, just as the plan of action cemented in her head, Higash scooped her up in his empty hand and bellowed, "NO!" He turned his sword against his own people and became a dervish of destruction. The tribe had honed the edge, enchanted the blade, and done all they could to make certain of their foretold hero's ability to win. They had no idea that there was more than one way for a prophecy to be fulfilled.

For instance, they never asked about which way the devastation would be wrought. Higash killed every warrior in the tribe, and refused to do the same to the elders and the children. The crone who foretold his fate threw the relevant tablet at him, inscribed with Giant's Runes. "You are not a man! You will never be a man!"

"If manhood is killing the defenceless, I don't want it." Higash picked up the tablet anyway, and turned his back on his own people.

Anthe took this opportunity to clamber up to his shoulder, clinging to his harness. She was two feet, ahem-mumble tall, and he was eight feet if he was an inch. "I thank you, Higash, for sparing my life."

"You are no dragon," said Higash. "But I am a demon. I think horrible things."

"Do you do horrible things?"

He turned his head to look at her. "I just killed every warrior in my tribe. That's horrible."

"They were attacking you," said Anthe. "You defended yourself."

"I still killed them. That's evil." He strode along the side of the river, following it downstream. "I have dreams about destroying people. I... see... in my head, pictures of killing folks who've done nothing to me."

Anthe sighed. "The brain is a complicated lump of meat, when it's living. The things it does to entertain itself can go against the heart and soul. Tell me. Do you want to do the things you see in your head?"

"No. Never. They make me sick."

Anthe patted his cheek. "Then you are not evil. You may not be doing completely the right thing, but... this is the important part... you're choosing not to do the worst thing."

"I don't want to be the devil that destroys the world," sulked Higash.

"Then don't be. Be the devil who saves the world. Life is choice. It's your life. You choose." Ironic, though, that those were the words Wraithvine had used to get her to believe in herself. Maybe they could all pass them around until everyone believed better of themselves.

[1] Also known as - just about everything.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / magann]

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