The Parable of the Dark Lord
“My Lord, I’ve got it!”
“Got what?” asked the Dark Lord without looking up from his work.
“The Sword of Light! The one that can kill you.”
“Oh, that one…Well, put it on that shelf over there.”
The hunchbacked dwarf shoved the package he had brought onto the shelf and settled at his master’s feet.
“The night of the Great Confrontation is in two days’ time,” he remarked in a seemingly casual way.
“So?” the Dark Lord shrugged indifferently.
“The sacrifice, my Lord,” the dwarf reminded. “She still has to be found.”
“Nobody has to be found,” said the Dark Lord with a dismissive wave of his hand and put aside another peeled potatoe.
“But the ritual…”
“There will be no ritual!” said the Dark Lord with a stern frown. “It’s about time you got used to it…”
The dwarf puffed up.
“My Lord! You’ve been living in the middle of nowhere for a year and a half! You breed geese and grow cabbage, while you could rule the world by the right of the strong! Where are your Legions of Death? Where are the crowds of faithful servants? The palaces, the dungeons, the rows of gallows – where is all that? Great conquests, heinous deeds – everything has gone down the drain. Look: Light and Good triumph everywhere, even children are not afraid to walk the streets at night. How can you tolerate that, my Lord?”
“I have already explained to you,” replied the Dark Lord. “Good always wins, evil always loses. There is no point starting a doomed enterprise, spending effort and resources when there is not the slightest chance of success. And I like winning, you know. Never otherwise!”
“But how, my Lord? While you are languishing here in oblivion, the Light is gaining strength…”
“Exactly!” said the Dark Lord, raising his finger. “Gaining strength! And what is it going to do with that strength? What is it going to apply it to?”
He took another potato and started peeling it calmly.
“What will Good do when it discovers it has no one to fight? Me, I’m here, sitting in place, not reminding of myself in any way. And the others are nothing but midgets, a piece of cake for any light hero. And what then? The monsters will run out, but the teeth will remain. All thirty-two of them. And who will they bite then?”
The peeled potato plopped into the saucepan. The Dark Lord took an onion and began whittling it.
“Give it three or four months, and Good will go mad with idleness. The light knights will return to their estates and begin managing them, and that is not something everyone can do. There will be territorial disputes, and quarreling, and infighting, and raised taxes. The priests will remember their monasteries, they will get together for disputes, argue until their throats get sore and their faces punched, until they are divided into various schools and factions like so many times before. I’m not even speaking about the wizards. Elves, humans and dwarves will remember their ancient racial prejudices, stir up old grudges and cause many new ones. The fighters who only know how to fight will soon become robbers as one…The thieves…well, they have always been people without conscience. And the struggle for power? Just look at all the fighting that is going on around the throne even now! And all that without any involvement on my part, mind you. It is exclusively owing to the peculiarities of the human nature…Do you remember if I salted the soup?”
“Not that I saw.”
The Dark Lord salted his brew, tasted it and added some more salt.
“Knowing how to rule and knowing how to fight one’s way to the top are two different talents. And they very rarely go together. Which means that eventually some very prehensile and cunning person will come to power, someone who will be able to dominate everyone else by bribes, blackmail and sometimes direct threats. And the thing he will care about most will be his own well-being – otherwise he wouldn’t make it to the top. And then…”
He fell silent and smiled wistfully, stirring the soup.
“And then what?” blurted out the dwarf.
“Nothing. I’ll wait for three or four years until total ruin arrives and the people can take it no more. And then I shall take the Sword of Light, mount our black steed, if he hasn’t kicked the bucket by then, and ride across the country doing heroic deeds left, right and center. Until the triumphant end. Because,” he allowed himself a brief gloating smirk, “good always wins.”
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!
- Oscar Wilde