Fool’s Quest by Jacob Fiott
The blood red sky reflected off the glistening water, turning the river into what looked like a flood of blood. Right beside and above this river was another river. The dead were emerging from their graves, waves upon waves of them flowing into the realm of the living. Their blood stained the very ground, which shook and shuddered in response to their horrifying, decayed, fetid flesh. Monsters and ghouls of all sizes emerged from all the corners of the Earth. The beating of their wings drummed beneath the crimson sky like an otherworldly storm. Their feet shattered cliffs and their claws shredded flesh. Above, the sky burned, and below, it was a slaughter without mercy. If only the very Earth could weep, it would have drowned in tears. This was the curse of the Wild Hunt. Many believed that it was just a legend; a tale to inspire fear and order. As the legend has it: The worlds of the living and the dead would become one, and a great slaughter would ensue. Should this happen, it would serve as a warning of a greater horror yet to come. The legend was proven true, and the Wild Hunt began.
At the very heart of this nightmare, this ghoulish bloodbath, an Elf was in a concealed cave, deep within a darkened cliff. Upon his marble-like white face, he bore an expression of pure determination. He would bring the world back to glory. Out of the ashes will rise a new world. A world of grace, of honour. A perfect world. All he had to do was to open his fist.
“By the hands of the gods, Mac Bréaga! You have no idea what you are about to unleash! I implore you, put your hand away!”
That was another Elf, Mac Grá. He was small of stature, like the rest of the Elvenkind. His pale eyes pleaded for mercy, his eyebrows bunched together in an effort to force some sense into Mac Bréaga’s head.
“You ought to be able to understand me Mac Grá. I aim to bring back the golden age.”
“I know. But-“
“I will bring about an age where gods walk upon the Earth once more. Where the world will be free of evil. Where all things good and pure will be allowed to multiply and grow. All I have to do is to drop this one silver coin into this Wishing Well and the power of Mimir will realise my wish.”
Baldung, the Dweorg, took a step forward. His axe, released from its hook, was now half raised by his side, ready for battle.
“Take one more step towards me, small man, and the winds of Dún Dealgan will blow upon your ashes!” The sentence came out of Mac Bréaga’s mouth with such malevolent promise that even Baldung, one of the bravest of warriors, thought twice about the next step.
“Who are you calling small man? You’re not so big yourself, you five-foot mop!” Baldung spat.
Mac Bréaga’s right hand twitched and Baldung was sent careening into the wall at the back of the cave in a flurry of limbs, his axe scattering after him.
Ailbe, a Human woman who was trying her best to keep a soldier’s guts from spilling, glanced at where Baldung lay. When she saw the bundle of beard and limbs start to take the shape of a normal Dweorg, she scolded him, “When an Elf who brought about the Wild Hunt and has the power to break you with a twitch of a finger threatens you, you don’t call him a mop!”
“Ooohhh – duly noted…” Baldung wheezed.
“Please, Mac Bréaga! No one else has to get hurt!” Pleaded Mac Grá.
“I fear you are mistaken. This world has been in darkness for far too long. Avarice presides over health. Lechery over love. War over peace. Our kind, the Elvenkind, have worked for eons to try and assert the dominance of peace. For thousands of generations we have failed because we believed reason would persuade these….lesser races. They are like beasts. They only learn with the crack of a whip. I will heal the world by demanding that the power of Mimir grant me the power to assert the dominance of the better race!”
Mac Bréaga’s clenched fist quivered over the top of the mouth of the well.
“This will not end well,” Mac Grá replied. “Look around you. Anything that demands this much bloodshed is not worth fighting for. Anything that requires such an abomination is rotten at its core. Your actions managed to draw out an unholy army that was presumed to be a simple legend and is now tearing through villains and innocents like a sickle through wheat.”
Mac Bréaga stared in silence, deep into the well. His cheeks trembled slightly.
“You have the power to stop this.” Mac Grá continued. “I believe the Wild Hunt is here to warn against the very action of releasing that coin. Look within you, at your virtue, and do what is right.”
“Do not dare to talk to me about virtue, you vile blood-traitor! You, who turned against your own kind, your own land, your own culture, to live among base creatures such as these!” Mac Bréaga raged. “You, who cannot see the consequences of your own leniency towards the vile practices of these beasts! Through the very act of being in the company of a Human, you accept their avarice! Through the very act of being in the company of a Dweorg, you accept their profligate lifestyle!”
Mac Bréaga took a deep breath through his flared nostrils and then smirked. “Then again, you never were one of us. You never had the gift of magic. All you could do was grovel in the dirt. You were never one of us. You were always lesser, so I guess you truly cannot understand.”
Mac Bréaga’s eyes suddenly took on a distant look. With his left hand still loosely clutching the coin, and his right hand lightly brushing along the wall of the well’s mouth, Mac Bréaga walked around the well until he formed a complete circle. “They were like gods, our ancestors.” he said, his eyes sparkling with envy, “With a thought they raised mountains. With a breath they razed kingdoms. Their very sweat brought forth forests, and their tears quenched the thirst of thousands. Their thoughts were law. Their words manifested in feats that surpassed nature itself. They were the Tuatha de Danann, and they were gods on Earth. We are descended from the Tuatha de Danann and it is our duty to bring back the world of that golden age!”
“Having magic or being descended from the Tuatha de Danann does not make us superior to anyone!” Mac Grá, unthinkingly, possibly encouraged by his deep sense of determination, took a step forward. “They came and usurped the land from the people who lived here before them. Their magic made them feel superior, and they became hubristic. It left them wanting more than they could handle and it destroyed them. They were monsters!”
Mac Bréaga’s eyes flashed with rage. “They were benevolent to their subjects and encouraged those of good nature!”
“Whilst they butchered those who went against their wishes,” replied Mac Grá.
“They brought knowledge beyond anyone’s imagination to this land; a land which was ruled by savages! They brought the land to where it stands today!” Insisted Mac Bréaga.
“They wiped out civilisations. They destroyed cultures. They warped values.”
Mac Bréaga took two brisk steps away from the well, and they were heavy with loathing.
“They were perfect!” He spat.
“They were flawed. For all their power and feelings of superiority, they were wiped out. Their reign did not last. It could not last, because it was wrong. Their own lust for power devoured them.” replied Mac Grá.
“They were perfection incarnate! They were gods on Earth, their power unmatched. Their rule indisputable. I will attain perfection for this world once more.” Mac Bréaga then swiftly stretched out his right hand and slowly curled his fingers into a fist before squeezing.
Mac Grá suddenly felt his entire body constrict, the air squeezed out of his lungs.
“Try to stop me and I will burn you.” With that, Mac Bréaga turned around, walked back to the well, and replaced his hand holding the coin above the well.
“N-no….you d-dont u-understand…” wheezed Mac Grá, now crumbled on the ground.
Mac Bréaga closed his eyes and whispered, “Power to achieve perfection.” Not a sound was heard as the coin dropped into the well.
The water churned and bubbled. Mac Bréaga shrieked in agony. His skin broke into black scales. Horns and Spurs tore through the scales, claws through fingertips.
“No! What is happening?” he screamed.
“You fool! You misguided fool! The world was already perfect because it was as it should be. Your kind of perfection can only exist if there is no conscious soul left alive on this planet! The total obliteration of evil can only exist with the destruction of free will. You attributed a perfection to the Tuatha de Danann that they did not have. You misguided fool!”
“Oh no! No, no no no no…” Albe cried. “He has killed us all!”
The creature halted and contorted as its muscles grew and its bones shifted. It sprouted wings as it bellowed to the end of days.