Jeraziah sat on the top of the dais in a throne made of brass and iron. Next to him sat the empty throne made of wood and bone that belonged to his sister, Ophelia, although she rarely spent any time there. She was much too busy keeping the beast tribes in order and moving throughout the kingdom to be bothered with any of the details of keeping the Domain of Man safe and running smooth enough to keep the demons at bay.
“It’s best that she not be here in any case,” he thought as he looked over to the empty throne. “After all, her place is among her own people, and even after all these years they do not know much more about running in civilization than they did before. Thank Sol for their numbers on the battlefield, but they have little place among civilized men.”
He was already frustrated from the morning’s reports of raids on some of the outlying farms. Not every beast was willing to let the old ways die, nor was every man willing to see them as more than savages.This was Newerth’s eternal problem… not man vs. demon, but man vs. beast. Although he had come to love his sister, her people were always so unwilling to adapt to the new ways and embrace the progress that they had made. How it frustrated him to know that Sol offered these primitives a better path and they refused to walk it!
The herald entered the room to call out the afternoon’s visitors– the usual parade of dignitaries, generals, and petitioners it seemed– and then took his place at the king’s right hand, took up his quill and began to record the day’s procedures. As the day continued to drag on and on, the herald sensed the restlessness of Jeraziah and spoke to him between visitors.
“My Lord, forgive me if I speak out of turn, but I sense you are troubled. How may one as lowly as I ease your burden?”
“Ah Fredrick, my good man, you are neither lowly nor out of turn. These meetings simply drain the energy from me. I seek to experience life in the field with my men, not administer it from within the walls of the city.”
The herald spoke again, “True enough my lord, surely the best place for the ‘Last Hope of Mankind’ is not here in the throne room. Your place is on the field, leading the heroes of Newerth to glory against your father and the demons he commands. “
“Soon enough I will join my men again… once this tedium is done,” Jeraziah sighed. “Soon enough…”
“My Lord, a warrior as great as you does not need to be tied down to these proceedings. Surely you could appoint someone else to hear these complaints! You belong in the temple of Sol, basking in the glory of the maker. You are his chosen champion, the bringer of light, the champion of the meek, righter of wrongs, and keeper of peace. You are the sole hope of humankind to prevail against the hordes of the Hellbourne.” Frederick continued singing the praises of Jeraziah for several minutes, each compliment building on the last.
As the herald continued with the stream of commendations, Jeraziah could not help but admire the many titles his people had placed on him over the years. His mind wandered back to the battles of his past, the war with the beasts, the betrayal of his father, the many battles fought against the demons since. Truly if any other had stood in his place, mankind surely would have fallen. His attention was caught by his reflection in his shield. He reached down and picked up the sturdy bulwark, not noticing that Frederick’s face has twisted into a contorted grin. From the pages of the tome on the pedestal a inky purple smoke emerged, swirling near the feet of the king and rising to engulf him.
“Frederick? What is this?” asked Jeraziah as he saw the smoke near his reflection in the shield.
Inside of his own mind Frederick screamed back that is was not his doing, he had no control, but the voice of his trusted manservant spoke with the words that Envy choose for him. “My Lord, this is merely the reflection of your own vast arrogance. Always under the surface it was there. Just like your father before you. Destined to rule those lesser than yourself, always knowing that man and beast should bow to you. This is your vanity given life. Your pride will be your undoing.”
Jeraziah’s eyes were drawn back to his shield as Envy spoke. The symbol of Sol had been replaced by a mirror that had captured his reflection. His armor took on the purple color of the smoke and the metal fringe took on a glossed finish. Even his sword could now capture his reflection. The magic had done its work. Jeraziah looked back at his reflection in the shield, the waning light of the sun filtering in from the stained glass window behind him.
“Cancel my appointments for the rest of the week Frederick. I think I deserve to spend some time with someone worthy of my presence for a while… me.” And with that Jeraziah turned back to his shield and began speaking to the man in the mirror.
Envy smiled again, “As you wish my lord.” The creature gathered the tome and left the throne room to clear the schedule of the king…and watch as the kingdom began its slow descent into chaos.