Chapter 1 Good and Evil

 

The game is always rigged.

The Dark Lord’s Handbook

 

In the eternal conflict between Good and Evil, turmoil gripped the city below, with proceedings being played out with an air of inevitability. Sections of the city were reduced to rubble and fires raged everywhere. A desperate regiment fought a rearguard action around the palace grounds. Men and orcs scurried around the narrow streets and in and out of wrecked buildings, taking what opportunities presented themselves to murder their foe. The air was thick with smoke.

A particularly large explosion caught Evil’s attention. The noose was tightening and soon a Dark Lord would be hanging from it.

Evil despaired. It should not have come to this. His melancholy was in stark contrast to his companion’s mood. Over the countless centuries, Evil had never been so close to punching his opponent square on the nose. Smug was too small a word, infuriating too weak, to encapsulate the way Good’s lip curled into a smirk.

Ten years.

It was a long time for a Dark Lord to rule. Longer than most, but far from the eternal darkness of a Dark Lord’s supposed reign. His shadow had smothered the world, his victory seemingly total, but a spark of hope for Good had survived, albeit barely at times. Now it burned brightly to force back the darkness and bring light once more to the world. Evil could hardly believe it was happening. He had won. Morden had conquered all. His reach extended across oceans and continents. After his initial victories, none had stood before his might.

And yet here they were, on the cusp of his downfall. Another failed Dark Lord. Evil turned his attention back to the battle. Even though he had no chance of winning, he couldn’t help but watch the final act play out.

“Do you know, I can’t be bothered anymore,” said Evil. “I’ve had enough.”

“Don’t say that,” said Good, with insincerity in his eye. “There’s always the next time. This was so close.”

“Not close enough. It never is, is it? I don’t know why I try. Well, no more. You can have your stupid victory. I hope you choke on it.”

“Come, come. There’s no need to take it so personally.”

“How else am I meant to take it? I did everything right this time. A perfect start—well, almost—a great mid-game, and a killer finish. Then you had to cheat, didn’t you? And I still did well. You should have conceded. I had won. Why didn’t you concede?”

“Well. You know. While there is hope left in the world and all that…. Look, I’m sorry. But can’t you see? It’s been rigged from the start. You think we’re the only ones in this game?”

Evil dragged himself away from the devastation below. “What do you mean, not the only ones?”

“Don’t be dense. You know who I mean. Him. It. Whatever.” Good pointed his index finger skyward. “Upstairs.”

Evil couldn’t help but raise his eyes to a metaphorical heaven. “You’re joking. Since when has He cared about anything? And as for them,” Evil pointed down to the city, “they’ve cared even less for a long time. You can’t tell me it’s about Him and them.”

“Who’s won every contest since time immemorial?”

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

“Like I said, I’m sorry.” Good came to Evil’s side and put his arm around him. “Anyway. It’s not over yet, brother. You never know what might happen. Morden is not dead yet.”