Chapter 26: Two Kings go to War
King Eli’s army marched a day before arriving to the battlefield. They were armed and ready to fight their oppressor. The day was dark and overcast. The whole forest was now completely in flames. Ash and embers were floating all over the land and the heat it gave off was immense. Should someone stand too close, it would kill them.
King Greedy’s dead army stood shoulder to shoulder, all 80,000. Far behind them stood their master high above on a wooded platform he had constructed for the occasion. He wanted to witness the battle, his defining moment as king.
The battle began. There were no words exchanged. With King Eli leading the way in front, his army started slowly, gradually building speed until they were in a full-out charge. The King was like a madman as he tore through the dead army. He fought with ferocity and skill. There was a fluidity in his attack; countering and attacking at the same time.
The battle cries were loud as many were dropping quickly on both sides. The Princess and Miriam were both riding bears, swords in hand. Six bears surrounded them for protection, and they both roared with them, not holding back from the fight and willing to strike down any of the Dead managing to get close enough.
The battle was fierce as men and women of all ages gave their lives. Many of the elderly carried a crossbow with one shot. They were warriors with limitations, but warriors none the less, and were just as important to the cause as their younger counterparts. Upon firing their one shot, a kill shot, all they could do next was throw up their hands, surrendered to their fate as the next dead soldier went in to kill them.
King Eli’s army was greatly outnumbered and his men were beginning to lose heart when suddenly they heard trumpets blasting. It was Joshua. He had with him a small army of his own, 10,000 strong; men and women eager to change the fate of their children and the future of the Kingdom.
Watching as Joshua joined the fight, King Greedy shuttered. Once again, he was struck with fear and he didn’t have anywhere he could run. The fighting was now all around him and the forest was burning endlessly behind.
With Joshua joining the fray, there was renewed strength and hope in King Eli’s army. The added adrenaline helped them push forward towards victory.
King Eli found himself a stone’s throw away from where King Greedy stood. He charged ahead taking out several more of the Dead before he finally reached the twenty foot high perch.
“It is finished!” King Eli yelled up to King Greedy.
“Perhaps, but my fall will come at great cost to you!”
King Greedy had two of the dead soldiers by his side. He turned to one and whispered. Suddenly, all of the dead army ignored the fighting men in front of them and began running past them, as if fleeing. King Eli’s army believed this to be the case because they desperately wanted the fighting to end so they started to celebrate prematurely.
From his vantage point, however, King Eli knew what was happening. He could see the dead army making their way all at once and without much resistance, toward Princess Elise.
“No!” King Eli shouted in vain, “Protect the Princess!”
It was too late for a strong response, but Joshua noticed the shift in the battle, and was not as eager to celebrate. He knew something was wrong so he ran faster than the dead army, ahead, in the direction they were going until he found his way to the Princess. He didn’t completely understand, seeing a young girl riding a bear and being surrounded by the dead army. Still, he didn’t hesitate. He rushed to her side and began fighting alongside the bears to keep her safe.
“You will lose no matter what,” King Eli said, trying to reason with King Greedy.
“Yes, I anticipate that. At least I’ll die knowing you will still lose and suffer for it,” he said while laughing.
“Then have me instead,” the King shouted. “Spare my daughter and I will give up right now, but call them off.”
King Greedy was flattered by the proposal. He began whispering into his guard’s ear once more. A little more time and the Princess would have been killed, but the dead army stopped their fighting and spoke in unison.
“We will not fight. It is over. Your King has offered to sacrifice himself for all of you. I will surrender after his death, I only wish for an audience,” King Greedy said through them. “There doesn’t need to be anymore death. You can all go home to your loved ones…victorious. Now please, direct your attention to me and witness the death of your King.”
Since the men and women in battle were eager to end the fight, some were relieved by what was announced. Still, many didn’t trust King Greedy.
“Should you continue to fight, I will take back my little arrangement and you will all risk the death of many more of your friends. As a sign of my word I will disarm my army,” King Greedy said once again through the unison voice of his army.
They all dropped their weapons with the exception of those surrounding King Greedy. This was a good enough sign for the fighting to come to an end. At this, King Eli surrendered himself.
All eyes were on King Greedy atop his perch. Below him was King Eli, bound in ropes, dead soldiers on all sides.
“That’s right!” King Greedy shouted out, “Look at your King now!”
A noose was quickly thrown around his neck and he was instantly hoisted up into the air, high enough for all to see.
“King Eli, in all of his glory!” King Greedy said as he continued to mock.
King Eli struggled as he hung, but he was able to see Princess Elise. She was sobbing as others gathered around her trying to get her to look away. All he could think of was how much he wanted to hold her and let her know he was dying for her out of love and without any regrets.
The seconds passing seemed a lifetime for him. He was having visions of his past, happier days with his wife. The nights they dreamed of having a large family together, a time of peace and hope. His vision started to blur and he accepted his fate and was quickly losing consciousness. Then it happened again. Like all the other times before, he heard the all too familiar voice in an unlikely moment.
“Down he goes, let him down.”
Suddenly, the dead soldiers dropped the rope and King Eli went crashing to the floor, gasping for the air to return to his lungs, sucking for life to re-enter his body.
“What is this?!” King Greedy demanded. He turned only to see the witch making her way through the crowd of dead soldiers, clasping the wound he had given her; blooding oozing out between her fingers.
“You should be dead!” He shouted in horror.
“Not by your hand, never by you,” the old witch replied.
“Kill her!” King Greedy ordered his army.
They didn’t move.
“What is wrong with you? Do you not hear my voice?”
“They know their master’s voice: me, not you, never you.”
The Princess made her way through the crowd, along with Joshua and Miriam, to help King Eli out of the ropes and noose binding him.
Now enraged, King Greedy grabbed a sword, climbed off his perch and moved to strike the witch. He didn’t get very far. He was immediately grabbed by the dead soldiers.
“Greedy in life, greedy to death,” the witch told him.
The dead soldiers took the noose once destined to kill King Eli and put it around King Greedy. All at once the remaining thousands of dead soldiers made their way toward the burning forest. One by one, they entered. The two dead soldiers King Greedy had grown accustomed to keeping by his side during his reign were now dragging him to the fire. He was kicking and screaming, crying out for pity and mercy, but it was no use. He was taken into the flames and was no more.
With the dark army now vanquished and King Greedy dead, only the witch remained for all to see. She stood silently. The people were tense, expecting her to give them her worst, but she only stood there. Her veil removed. Her milky white eyes were staring out as if she could see them all, looking to find someone. For a moment, it was as though her eyes had fixed on someone before she finally turned around and made her way back into the burning forest.
“Wait,” King Eli called out, “is this it? Is it over?”
“I am not needed right now, not yet. Not too long for me, others like Greedy Fool to be,” she said without stopping or looking back.
She walked slowly, but eventually made her way into the fiery forest.
In Good Company
King Eli’s army cheered and celebrated at the top of their voices. King Greedy’s eight year reign of horror was over. Still, King Eli wasn’t satisfied, he had to know what the witch meant by what she said. The rabbit stood by him and, knowing the questions he had, answered them.
“There will be others like Greedy Fool. The truth is: the witch isn’t needed to make the world a dark place. She just knows how to speed up the process.”
“There are plenty of good people here.”
“Yes, and more than enough not so good. The human race isn’t perfect. She knows this and she loves to exploit the imperfections.”
“Will she come back?”
“Maybe someday…maybe in a different form…maybe no form at all.”
“Why can she not be destroyed? Shouldn’t you just kill her once and for all?”
“There is a time and place. Still, you’ve changed things, or rather, your daughter, the Princess, did. The witch doesn’t have the power she once possessed, but that will not stop her from trying to influence people to bring darkness into the world; the kind she craves. Men have a choice, choose darkness or light. Your daughter will bring a brighter light than the world has ever seen.”
“And what about you? Your home is gone. Where will you go?”
“Once again, your daughter changed things. My home wasn’t in the forest. Those are things you may never understand. Perhaps my home will be in the wind, or we’ll take to the skies. My time has come to leave the animals be. You and your family will now become my messengers. You must go and spread hope and love throughout all the lands. Get ahead of the darkness, restore and rebuild people’s faith.”
“What of my daughter? Can you at least tell me what will come in her lifetime? Will she face men like Greedy Fool?”
“There will be peace in her lifetime, you need not worry.”
They both paused to look over to see her and Joshua celebrating together.
“She will be in good company,” the rabbit continued, “She will live a long and fulfilling life. It will not be until she is gone and her child takes the throne that there will be the beginnings of unrest. Later generations that will be out of touch with the events of these last eight years and grow accustomed to loving the darkness…but even in darkness there is always Hope.”
King Eli took a moment to reflect on what he heard.
“Rejoice, King! You did it!” the rabbit told him, “You’ve restored your honor, saved your Kingdom, and reunited with your daughter.”
“Thank you,” King Eli replied, “without your help, all would be lost. I will make sure everyone knows to tell the stories of Hope.”
The King finally smiled and joined the celebration, and the whole Kingdom rejoiced.