Evil Overlord: The Makening

by

NotGodot

Chapter Two: Look, People Die All the Time

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There was no psychic trauma in my formative years that set me on the path to Utter Domination; no single event that made me thirst for the blood of my enemies. There was of course a first step on that path, but it was a small step down a long slope in the scheme of things, and not a precipitous drop.

Looking back on my deeply humble origins, there are a few lessons that I picked up unconsciously in the dull drudgery of days spent digging rocks out of the dirt, milking goats and cows, killing and plucking chickens, and listening to interminable arguments about the best way to despatch and pluck chickens, milk cows and goats, and pull rocks out of the sucking mud. Two-and-one-half lessons, to be precise:

 

1) I have absolutely no interest in how my chickens come to be dead and featherless. It's the destination, not the journey.

2) Hard work is nothing to be afraid of.

2a) Hard work is nothing to be afraid of, especially if you have someone else doing it for you.

 

* * *

 

My career as an acolyte of the Light started inauspiciously. There was no clothing in the kirk suitable to my size, and so Father Viker gave me an old sheet, cut a head-hole, and painted the rays on the back. Then he showed me where I was to sleep – in the kitchen, under the table. Then he locked himself in his bedroom with a bottle and a whole roast chicken, and didn’t come out until morning.

I learned the first night that kirks are not somehow magically immune to the depredations of rats or roaches, and thereafter I slept on top of the table once Viker was passed out for good. The kitchen was at least warm, and as long as I didn’t touch the wine, I could have whatever else I wanted of the daily offerings brought in by the villagers. I put on weight rapidly, and soon enough I was as healthy as I had ever been up to that point in my life. Bark and grass and worried-over bones had far too often been what was on the menu, on the farm.

My duties were few. Chief among them was to stay out of Viker’s sight as much as possible, which was a simple matter. The kirk had an abundance of hiding spots, unlike the hovel where I’d been born and raised. I soon discovered the rafters of the kirk were practically made for me. It’s amazing, really, how seldom people look up in their lives. Certainly Viker never did.

There was a woman who came in daily to clean and cook, by the name of Gertis. She was a widow, and disliked me. Mostly she disliked me because my presence meant that the extracurricular activities that she and Viker got up to had to be practiced more circumspectly. No more humping at the altar, in other words, in case I should wander in.

Viker wasn’t a bad sort. Well, he was, by any objective measure, and his views on the opposite sex were simply barbaric. But he could be urbane, witty and learned when he wasn’t completely cabbaged – not to me, mind you – and he did grudgingly build on the foundations of literacy that my mother had given me. For the first time in my life, I read an actual book, and wrote on real paper with pen and ink rather than scratching out letters in the dirt with a stick.

Viker was a canker sore on the mouth of the Light, but he did give me reading and writing. Also the worst imaginable advice on love and romance, and uncountable bruises, but the literacy is what matters.

On service days, I was the one who lit the candles and collected the offerings. Sometimes the offerings consisted of money, but most often it was root vegetables, eggs, milk, baked goods and the like. All the hard coin went for Viker’s booze, of course, unless it went to Lisabet, the village trollop. She was quite nice. She showed me how to bake a pie, once.

All in all, I could have remained Viker’s acolyte for years, more or less content with my lot. But six months later he died, the bastard, his liver finally giving out.

The new father dispatched to Thrudd from the Capital wasn’t like Viker in any way, shape or form.

Father Breen actually believed in the Light, for one thing. For another, he believed an acolyte of the Light should endure harsh trials to strengthen their faith. He was, put simply, a zealot and an asshole of the highest order.

I spent a lot of time in the dark on my bare knees on the stone floor of the kirk’s cellar, ostensibly praying for the Light to fill my soul. In actuality I was praying for Father Breen to fall down a deep well.

I endured him for a month before deciding the Light was taking far too long getting around to my prayers. The Book of Light tells us all prayers are answered, and that sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ But it also tells us that those who help themselves are helped in return. So I decided to help myself out of the situation.

Going back to the farm was not an option, of course, and after half a year away I had no desire to return to my grimy roots and my fratricidal siblings. So I plotted my first murder.

Breen lived by a schedule. He awoke at four, prayed, washed, prayed, ate, prayed and then oversaw me as I cleaned the kirk. When dawn finally arrived, he set me to knee-praying and went out into the village on his pastoral duties, returning to the kirk for lunch and some more praying. The afternoon saw him harassing villagers to enter the kirk for evening services, and then officiating said evening service, the Lament of the Loss of the Light, where folks got harangued about all the bad things they did in the dark and how the night was a symbol of our own mortal shame.

That one was sparsely attended, however hard he tried to round up villagers to fill the pews.

After that I got half an hour of religious instruction, which consisted of memorizing passages from the Book of Light, then I got to prepare dinner (generally bread and water for the both of us) and then we prayed again and then it was off to bed a full two hours before anyone else in the village.

I was quickly going insane.

Once a week Breen made an inspection of the kirk, to ensure its soundness and cleanliness. Winter was approaching, and after a month concentrating on the interior of the kirk, expunging all the filth built up over Viker’s reign, he then moved on to the exterior.

Winters were harsh in our village, and the kirk old and very poorly maintained. The wooden shingles of the roof were in an atrocious state. Breen wasn’t liked enough to convince any of the villagers to repair them for free, and I wasn’t handy enough to do the work, so he carved out an hour a day from his schedule to climb up onto the roof to replace the shingles that would not withstand another winter.

If there was a chance to… eliminate him, I thought, then that was surely it.

Let us pause for a moment and discuss morality, shall we?

Murder is wrong, you say. What sort of twelve year old monster would set about murdering a priest?

The kind whose knees were black and blue with bruises from kneeling on a cold stone floor for hours at a time, that’s who. The kind who had begun to lose weight from a bread and water diet, weight that he could ill-afford to shed.

Look, people die all the time; roughly as many as are born, in fact. And most deaths are more or less meaningless – they further no end, they are just… an end. But when you deliberately kill someone, you give their death purpose and meaning. It’s not some random event, or some natural, mindless process. You’re elevating their death, plucking it out of a sea of mundanity and pointlessness.

What I’m saying here is that premeditated murder is actually rather noble, if you look at it in the right light.

Of course, I hadn’t put all that much thought into making meaning from death at the time. I just wanted the Breen dead.

At the age of twelve, my instinct for cunning had not yet fully matured into the force of nature it is now, but I knew that Breen’s demise had to be made to appear an accident. The kirk’s roof was high and steeply pitched; a fall from it would at the very least break bones and, with a little luck, kill him outright. I figured that even if he did survive a fall, he’d be bedridden, and I could come up with some other way to finish the job.

So one night I took a jar of goose fat from the kitchen, climbed the ladder that he’d told me to put back in its place and I hadn’t, and slathered the area I thought he’d be working on the next day. I greased the top rung of the ladder for good measure. Then buried the jar of goose fat, cleaned myself up, and went to bed, imagining a Breen free future until it was time to start my duties once more.

When the next day dawned, I went out to survey my handiwork after Breen left for his pastoral duties.

The kirk’s roof now had a giant, messy, glistening spot on it for all to see. It hadn’t glistened in the starlight. My heart sank. Nobody looked up, as a general rule, but Breen couldn’t help but notice it once he climbed the ladder.

He wasn’t going to slip and fall. He was going to want to know who had smeared goose fat all over the kirk’s roof. And the first person he was going to question would almost certainly be me.

I considered running away then, but decided to brazen it out. Nothing could be proven. Anyone in the village might have done it; Breen wasn’t particularly popular, after all. And if growing up with a dozen putative murderers had taught me anything, it was to deny everything and deflect suspicion onto someone – anyone – else.

I decided Gertis, the cleaning woman that Viker had regularly tupped and Breen had fired for incompetence, would be perfect. All that day I went over what I would say and how I would say it when Breen discovered the attempt on his life.

As it turned out, my day of gut-churning anxiety was for nothing.

Living at the ass-end of the kingdom, hard against the Quang Hills, meant that we occasionally suffered the depredations of monsters. Usually it was some solitary beast driven from its hunting rounds by some other, greater predator. Occasionally the village might be troubled by a band of goblins grown large and bold enough to think it could challenge a human settlement. But once every decade or two, the kingdom’s peace was troubled by an orcish horde out of the east.

This time they cut a path through our village.

It was midafternoon when Breen ordered me to set up the ladder. I did so, my stomach flopping like a landed fish. He rolled up the sleeves on his robe, put on an apron, put the hammer and tacks in it, then grabbed a bundle of shingles tied up with twine and started to climb the ladder one-handed. When he grabbed the top rung, I heard him mutter “what by the Light…” and then he shook his head and made his way onto the roof proper.

Now, the kirk was the tallest structure in the village, and it occupied the highest ground in the village. The point was that it could be seen for miles in any direction, a sort of guidepost for the faithful, I suppose.

Breen, now on the roof itself, had just noticed the discolored, greasy shingles. He certainly wasn’t paying attention to the surrounding countryside. But as it turned out, the countryside was paying attention to him. He was the single-most visible human for miles around, after all.

Breen reached out and touched one of the glistening shingles with a forefinger. Then he sniffed it. Then he turned his head to say something to me. That’s when an arrow found his neck, followed by three more in quick succession.

Breen tumbled off the roof.

A distant, unseen orc let loose a “waaaargh!” followed by dozens, then what sounded hundreds of others.

I stared open-mouthed at Breen where he lay twitching in the dirt.

Waaaaaargh!

Some small part of my mind noted that it felt like the ground had begun to tremble, and wasn’t that strange.

Waaaaaaaaaargh!

Breen stopped twitching. I could hear people shouting now.

WAAAAAAAAARGH!

Arrows had begun to fall randomly in the street around me, and they were on fire. That’s what finally snapped me out of my shocked torpor. I snatched Breen’s signet ring, his ring of office, from his finger (the goose fat helped in that endeavor, so it wasn’t a total balls-up) and fled into the kirk.

“WAAAAAAAAAAARGH!”

I stopped to bar the kirk doors, but then realized there was no point securing a building that would soon be burnt to the ground. I raced into Breen’s private quarters and ransacked them, gathering up his personal papers, a sealing wax stick, pen, ink and parchment. Then I ran as fast as I could for the cellar.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

As I closed the trap door, I heard the village above me dying.

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About the author

NotGodot

Bio: Here, I'm Notogodot. In other places around the internet I'm Michael McClung, a writer and a general grump. I'm best known for the Amra Thetys fantasy series. I was born and raised in Texas, but have lived in Southeast Asia for almost two decades.

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