My proclamation was met with silence, not because raising an undead army was a bad idea, but because it was hard to make sound in the adjacent world. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Apart from the queen and Caim and his sword, there were also all the fairyfolk present. They’d be the ones required to operate the exhumed corpses, which they’d be fine with, I was sure. They’d do what the queen told them, and she’d do what I told her. Everyone could blame someone else. I’d be blaming whoever happened to be around.
People are good with doing awful things if they can point at someone above them. Nobody thinks, “Oh wait, if I do this crime against humanity, how will history judge me?”
The idea that somewhere in the future, probably long after you’re dead, books will be written making you look bad is hardly a deterrent to being an arsehole now to get what you want.
Even if it turns out the leaders you followed were burning people to death in industrial furnaces and running a franchise on rape rooms (happy hour 5-7PM, first cocktail free), does that really mean everyone was to blame? There are good people on both sides of any dispute, right?
I guess it depends on your definition of good people. There are certainly bad people on both sides, and I would say that the good people are the ones who want nothing to do with either of them.
The top people in any organisations tend to be arseholes because arseholes do well in the current meta. If someone actually wanted to fix what is clearly a broken system they would just need to nerf aggro. But they don’t, it’s too lucrative and the people in charge of balancing are the ones who are benefitting the most.
It doesn’t even matter what organisation it is. A charity that helps the poor and hungry around the world must be staffed by good-hearted people, practically saints? Nope, same arseholes as everywhere else. But video game companies must employ cool, laid-back types who love playing and having fun? Nope, toxic culture comes from the top, and nowhere is more toxic than gaming.
The beauty of this meta is that if everyone is being an arsehole, history won’t be able to judge anyone as worse than anyone else, so who gives a fuck?
“You want to rule over us all,” said the Fairy Queen, only she said it very slowly with her hand reaching out in super slow motion to point at me.
It was the obvious conclusion to draw. Here was I telling everyone what to do and promising them things I couldn’t possibly deliver, so I had to be stringing them along until I could take it all for myself. Because that’s what they would do.
The Fairy Queen and Caim had history. They didn’t like each other, but they did understand where the other person was coming from. The reason I upset people — okay, one of the reasons — was my insistence that I was not like them. Which would have been fine, but I clearly indicated that made me superior to them. It was insulting. It didn’t matter if it was true or not, the fact I had the gall to say it out loud was unacceptable, as other people’s opinions generally are.
“No, I don’t want to rule over any of you. This whole land is yours if you do what I tell you. But this isn’t a committee. We don’t discuss and decide together. You failed already and I haven’t, which is proof that I’m better than you. It doesn’t mean I’ll succeed or that I am infallible. It just means I have a chance and you don’t, so we’ll be going with the undefeated, victorious as opposed to non-victorious certified loser as commanding officer in this battle.”
The arsehole meta does have one drawback for arseholes. An even bigger arsehole will crush you with no problem.
The strange thing is how treating the most unpleasant personality types with utter contempt and disdain is often the best way to earn their respect. Realising this only makes you think less of them, which makes them admire you more. It’s a vicious cycle of viciousness.
The Fairy Queen’s look of suspicion and distrust settled into one of deference. She was mine to command, for now. I had no doubt her aim was to let me lead the way to triumph, and then steam in with 1001 reasons new leadership was required (reason number one: the old leader just died from a nasty case of cut throat syndrome).
I wasn’t that bothered about it. She was bound to come for me at some point, and as long as I had time to slip into the adjacent world I fancied my chances. The body she was currently inhabiting had one large juicy vine sticking out of it, and throats weren’t the only thing that could be cut.
I planned to use the time when I’d be fighting the war to end all wars to do a little research on how exactly the whole fairy possession thing worked — I expected to have quite a lot of free times as I would not be one of those generals who lead from the front and are beloved by their troops. Fuck the adoration of people dumb enough to be part of the frontlines.
Was the fairy part of the Fairy Queen inside the host body, or did the vine lead to the Fairy Queen’s true body somewhere safe and out of the way? It was a standard fantasy trope for evil beings to hide their vulnerable parts in an external container, like how a lich keeps their soul in a jar in a secret location.
Although, if you really want to make sure no valiant hero (Hello! I’ll be serving your valiant hero needs for today… where are you going?) stumbles onto your precious soul-container I would suggest writing a sell-by date on it that’s blurred and impossible to read and stick it in the back of any cupboard. No one will open it or throw it away, it will forever be stuck in limbo.
I planned to use Joshaya to help me understand exactly how the process worked, and then I would be ready to defend myself (by not being around to offer anyone a target).
With the queen’s assistance passably given, I had only to find a field full of dead monsters from back in the day and host a reunion gig. Always very popular when they play their old hits, not so much fun when they insist on playing their new stuff.
Caim was the less predictable part of the equation. If he did as I asked we’d be fine, but since when did anyone do that without being forced to?
The sword seemed to be on board, but she was also a wildcard in all this. None of the parties involved were to be trusted, and I included myself in that. By which I mean I had to assume they didn’t trust me, and also that I would be wise not to trust myself. If anyone was going to fuck me over, it was probably the person who had most practice at it — me.
This wasn’t the place to thrash out an understanding with Caim and Angel Rose (or to figure out which one was really in charge). Not only was the Fairy Queen watching, so were the other fairies in the room. Which was good in that they understood the situation. I imagine it would have been hard for them to grasp why the queen would allow me to call the shots if they’d just been told about it second hand.
“He threatened to kill everyone who didn’t obey him? Him? And she believed him? No, you must have misheard.”
I returned to my body and things returned to abnormal. The Fairy Queen stood up and vacated the large chair she had been sitting in. Big hats and big chairs, that’s what impress people, apparently.
“Very well, we shall follow your lead. You may take your seat.” She offered me the throne.
I saw it as a test. I claimed not to be interested in the trappings of power, but who would believe that? While I was in charge, she would be probing me for weaknesses (hopefully metaphorically) and if she learned my goal was to rule, then she’d kill me off. If, however, I was sincere in my claim, then she’d still kill me off. Why take chances?
“Not right now, thanks. Things to do. Where’s Joshaya? I’ll need him to raise the dead.”
“Here! I’m here!” said Joshaya. He came flouncing in as the Pope. How he transferred from one body to another would also be useful to know. And if Arthur’s body was the real thing, did that mean the Pope was once a real person, too? “What have I missed?”
Joshaya was projecting the fake bonhomie of a man who is in company he would rather not be in. My hunch was that he had really liked being the One True God but had felt obliged to do the bare minimum to rescue the queen. I’m not sure if there was external pressure being put on him or if it was self-inflicted, but he regretted it now. He’d regret it a lot more if I had anything to do with it.
“I want you to raise some dead people for me. We need the best warriors and mages this world has ever produced, the more the merrier. These bodies you’ve been keeping for dead fairy storage aren’t going to cut it when we go play in the big leagues.”
“Ah, I see,” said Joshaya. “That will take some time, and no little amount of resources.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘happy to help.’ I need them as soon as possible. Where’s the closest historical heritage site?”
“No, no. I need to prepare, to gather the necessary items. It will take months.”
“But you’re the Fairy of Death, aren’t you?”
“I prefer God of Death.”
“Whatever, just snap your fingers and resurrect the bodies of the fallen.”
He didn’t look very keen. “That would leave me a broken and hollow shell.”
As a broken and hollow shell myself, I felt he was looking down on my culture.
“Tell him,” I said to the Fairy Queen. “He’s one of yours, I expect people to do as they’re told. You don’t win wars by holding a discussion every time an order’s given. No one likes to play with lag.”
“You will do as he says,” said the queen.
“That will most probably kill me,” wailed Joshaya.
“Save the hysterics,” I said. “This is for a cause bigger than you or me. No sacrifice is too great when it comes to returning Fairyland to its former glory, is it? The whole world will be transformed into a utopia of fairies and fairy-related products. Merchandising will be where the real money will be and you’ll all get a cut of image rights. Everyone will bend the knee to the Fairy Queen and you will have made it possible. You should feel proud to offer your services and your lives. All hail the queen!”
“All hail the queen!” repeated the fairies, fucking mindless idiots.
They say those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but that’s a really limited way of looking at it. Firstly, those that do learn from history are doomed to become history teachers (because try finding another gig with your history degree) and that is a far worse fate. But secondly, most of the time, the whole point of learning from history is to repeat it.
History is full of examples of nutters who managed to do very well despite being very short and having no friends. Most history books provide psychopaths with an easy to follow guide to climb their own ladder to dictatorial depravity.
This lot already had the resentment, the flag and the mad munter to lead them, I was happy to give them a new slogan. These things are all about marketing.
“You wish everyone to praise my name,” said the queen, “while you give the commands.” It was important for her to let me know she was onto me.
“We each have a role to play,” I said. “If you have any concerns about my true goals, just ask one of my party. They’ve been following me around since we got here, and no one has a better grasp of my lack of ambition than them.”
I handed over to Flossie and Dudley. Here was their chance to back me up and not make things worse.
“Ah think yo’d make a good leader.” So close. “Everyone feels like they’re in the same boat when you’re in charge.”
“Yes, so what you’re saying, Flossie, you unfathomable ginga bint, is that I fulfil a function, and then I try to leave it behind, right?” I gave her a very clear look that said just say yes you fucking Brummie retard. — I’m quite nuanced when it comes to sending non-verbal cues.
“Unless it’s easier for yo’ to be in control. You don’t like to be the leader, but yo’d rather do that than let someone worse do it.”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Dudley, filling the retard quota for the day. “You only take the reins when it would be impractical not to.” He smiled at me like he’d done his best and he hoped it would be acceptable. Both these fuckers should have had a return policy where you could ask for a refund on everything they did or said.
“He’s like medicine,” said Flossie. “It doesn’t taste good but yo’ have to take it, even if you don’t want to.”
“Alright, I think that’s enough audience participation. Ignore them, they have a lot of weird sex and probably have one of those STDs that make your brain rot.” Now that I said it, maybe that was what it was. I just needed to discover penicillin and all my troubles would be over.
“We all need to work together,” Flossie continued, an unstoppable trainwreck, like a train that crashes into another train, and then rolls down a hill and wipes out an orphanage.
“Yes,” said Dudley. “There’s no I in team.”
And then the orphanage explodes and takes out the hospital next door.
“Great. Good point. There’s no I in self-centred twats either, but somehow it works out. Please shut the fuck up now.”
Flossie gave me an encouraging look. We’ve done all we can, the rest is up to you.
It’s not what you can do alone in life that counts, it’s what you can do in the face of unwavering support. Frankly, I consider it a good day if I manage to stay on my feet while my supporters try to relentlessly cut me off at the knees.
Surprisingly, Caim hadn’t interjected through any of this. I was pushing the whole Fairyland angle, so it would have been reasonable for him to ask where he would fit into this fascistic future, but he watched quietly with the sword raised so it rested on his shoulder. Lights pulsed up and down the blade as Angel Rose whispered in his ear. I’m sure it was all positive, life-affirming stuff.
The sword at least was going to wait until the dust settled before attacking me directly. The joke would be on her when she realised the dust was from me zooming out of here like the roadrunner.
“Now that we all know where we stand,” I said, “where is the nearest battlefield?”
“I know where we need to go,” said Caim. “I don’t know if you can achieve all you say, but Angel Rose says to trust you. We shall go to the site of my undying shame, where we can recall my fallen comrades in arms.”
“Okay, cool,” I said, sounding like a dork. “Is it far? We have dragons.”
Dragons were indeed needed, so we got back in our vehicles, Joshaya deciding to meet us there. I had the comfort and security of my bedmobile, not that there was much threat other than Flossie’s attempts to assassinate my character.
Once we got back to Arthur’s place, we boarded Vikchutni and took off, Joshaya now in Arthur’s body. He looked very glum. I felt like saying, “Cheer up mate, it might never happen,” but it would, I planned to make sure of it.
Being high above everyone was a nice change of pace, as was flying on the dragon. I didn’t expect my elevated status to last very long, so might as well make the most of it. Inflight snacks were provided by Damicar, and I got first pick.
The field we were headed to was back towards our enemies, but further north than we’d been. It was dull, rocky terrain, with wild grass and not much else. Sort of like Scotland, but with less heart disease. A few hours later we approached the site of Caim’s final battle (or so he’d thought).
“Aren’t the army of the dead supposed to be a bit more dead than that?” I asked as we hovered overhead.
There was already an army of monsters occupying the land. Their army was sitting on top of my army. Made things a bit more tricky than I’d expected.
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Next two chapters are up now on Patreon.Afterword from Mooderino