Musing: Good People on the Other Side of the Conflict

These are uh…. EVIL Kittens!

 

I’ve always found it as an interesting dynamic in storytelling when a clear line in drawn in the soil, yet people that are on ‘Team Antagonist’ have likable characters.   And not just likable but right too.   To often when these people are on the other side it is just an inevitability that they are proved ‘wrong’ and they come over to the Hero’s noble cause.

Well what about when the hero’s cause isn’t that noble?  Or maybe there are things that just need done that can only be accomplished?   What about when the character’s morality is challenged because Dr. Bad holds the cure for cancer?

There are the kind of things that make me appreciate villains.   Bonus points if they have real human connections to their minions / colleagues.   The fact is team bad guy wouldn’t be very successful if they were always trying to back-stab each other…

Anyway, story time, and a break from the ‘Weekly Blogging Stories’.  This one is some background history involving two characters in the Novel that hold importance beyond who they hang out with.

 

Vengance

A deafening crack filled the air and Barone parried the strike effortlessly.   With a shove he toppled his little brother, Barton and sent him sprawling to the other corner of the sparring hall.  He watched stoically as Barton slid to a stop before slamming into the wall.

“That was weak.” Barone glared down at his brother.  He always did.   Barone was seven feet tall when he was his younger brother’s age.   At eighteen he was a wall of muscle and steel.

“No it wasn’t.  You’re just a freak of nature.” Barton pulled himself up from the floor of the sparring room and dusted himself off.   At fifteen, he looked like a twig compared to Barone, but he was strong for his age.   He was slim, muscled and had the grace of a plains-sprinter.

“That sounds like an excuse to me,” Barone said.  He tapped his practice sword on his shoulder.   It might as well have been a tree trunk though.   The two of them had been sparring for hours and Barton had been running circles around Barone.   The giant hardly had to move.   Despite his size, Barone was fast; he could parry everything Barton could dish out.

“It was meant as one.” A sly smirk crept onto Barton’s face.  He charged and closed the gap in seconds.

Barone snorted and readied his sword.   He met the first strike easily with a downturned sword and blocked the next two with equal lethargy.  He wasn’t getting tired, he was getting irritated.  He went to shove his brother’s parry but he had already moved.   Barone shifted his weight and blocked another strike, it was solid and aggressive but the third strike he could barely stop.

Barton was gaining speed and power… but….  Barone thrust his left hand out and snagged Barton by the throat.  He lifted him from the floor and watched him squirm.  “…your defense is weak.”

Barton grinned at his brother despite the difficulty breathing, “Got me good.”

“Bah.” Barone tossed him roughly.  His brother went airborne tumbling head over feet before slamming on the stone floor.  His sword clattered to the ground.  “You’re a clown.   At this rate I will be serving the king alone.”

Barton let out a sputtering cough once he hit the ground.

“His majesty has appointed me as his shield,” Barone said.

His brother looked up with eyes wide in amazement, “That’s great!   Did you just find out today?”

“I’ve known.” Barone tossed aside his sword and offered a hand.   “I was hoping to nominate you as his sword, but you’re too weak.”

“I’m not…” Barton lowered his eyes and sighed.   He reached up and stood.  “…no.   You’re right.   I just need to keep at it.”

“Right,” Barone said.

“So you’ll be wearing Azure right?   The last sword and shield did.” Barton tightened the grip on his brother’s hand and bought his other one to it.

“Yes.  My armor’s been made already.  Though… I haven’t worn it.” Barone nodded at him.

“So you’ll be one of the Dragons right?” Barton grinned.

“Hm?” Barone furrowed his brows.

“You know.   Like the ones in the Western forest?   There’s a blue one and a green one.   You’d be the blue one then.”  Barton turned away and began to pace.   “If I was the sword, I guess that would make me the green one.”

“You’re a long way off. “ Barone shrugged.  “I’m a long way off.

“No way, you’re the strongest knight in Geldbane, hands down.”  Barton stooped over and picked up his practice sword.   He frowned at a fine crack along the side.

“Strength does not equate mastery.  I haven’t so much as stepped onto the battlefield.” Barone looked up at the ceiling.  “That is about to change.”

“What?   But the war is over! “ Barton said, “The Goddess stopped it in one fell swoop.

Barone chuckled to himself.

“What’s so funny?”

“You.” Barone turned his gaze to his brother.   “The Goddess didn’t end that war.   Our King did.”

“That’s bullshit.   No one could do something like that.”

“Our King can.” Barone leaned forward, “He might as well be called a God.”

“What do you mean…?”

“Everything was planned.  Clayton is dead.” Barone placed a hand on Barton’s shoulder.   “You realize what that means right?”

“W…what?   Clayton?   I thought…” Barton’s face grew pale, his eyes dilated to needle point.

“The King found a way.” The corners of Barone’s mouth turned upward .   He was a serious looking young man, he wore deep lines in his face from a permanent scowl.  When he smiled it was a terrifying thing.  It almost always meant misfortune.  “Our vengeance is complete.   The Dimanagul is dead.”

Barton lowered his eyes.  “I’m… not sure how I feel about that.”

“Be at peace.   With his majesty ruling this country everything will be fine.   He is thrice the king his father was.   He will make everything right, just as he ended the life of his greatest tool as a gift to us.  You mustn’t disappoint him Barton.” Barone squeezed his shoulder.

“I know.   I’m sorry.” Barton said quietly.

“I’m being sent off to clean up the trash gathering at the Erdaki border.   They are disrupting the peace, a peace his majesty worked hard to secure.   Come with me Barton.”

“But I’m not even a knight yet…” Barton shot a sidelong glance at the door.

“I will convince the King you are the best man for the job.   However you must convince me first.” Barone turned and stepped towards his practice sword.

“Why…?” Barton tightened his hand around his sword.  “Why does there have to be war?   If the king is so great?  Why can’t he do this without killing people?!”

Barone stood silent, the muscles in his shoulders tensed.  Barton could feel his anger flare and he could tell Barone’s temper had risen as well.   The elder brother turned and all traces of a smile were gone.   Panicked calm replaced Barton’s rage instantly.   He knew better than to fight Barone angry, that was a fast track to broken bones of death.

Barone was on top of him in the blink of an eye.   No matter how fast Barton claimed to be, his brother was bigger and faster.   Countless solders made the error of thinking him slow, but Barone’s greatest strength was momentum.  Barton narrowly ducked a lateral swing and wound up for another strike.   Barton held up his sword but was smashed brutally against the ground from the impact of their swords.  Barton had used both hands to stop the swing.   Even with that Barone was crushing him with a single hand.  The hairline crack in his sword widened.
Barton gave one last desperate shove, it shattered his training sword and he rolled away before Barone’s sword crashed into the floor with a loud smack.  Barton wasted no time running to the weapon rack at the room’s edge.  He scooped up two swords one in each hand and turned to face Barone.  He was already standing and offering a cold glare.

“War brings peace.” Barone pointed his sword at Barton.  “If you cannot understand that, I’ll beat it into you!”
Barton winced, he regretted aggravating Barone, and there was a storm of emotion in his mind as well though.   Clayton Cobb had the ability to tell the future, why did the King kill him even it was possible?   What did he stand to gain?  He charged forward, it’s what Barone wanted and he had anger of his own to sort out.
“Strength…” Barton swiped upwards with his right hand sword, it was soundly parried.

“…isn’t…” He loosed another swing, this one from his left hand.  Barone parried easily with a simple twist of the wrist.

“…killing!” Barton whirled away from Barone’s sword in a sweeping arch and slammed both swords hard into Barone’s side.   Both of the training swords smashed violently against his elder  brother’s tunic.

“Hm.  I seem to have died,” Barone said.

Barton dropped his shattered swords and hunched over.   He struggled to catch his breath.

Barone unfastened his tunic and lifted the corner to reveal a thick welt on the side of his body.  Pieces of wood splinters prickled out of the purple flesh of the wound.

“S…sorry,” Barton said.

“It’s fine.  It’ll be gone in a month.” Barone let his tunic fall back into place.   “But I hope you understand now.”

“Yeah, I think so.” Barton sighed.   “Best defense is a great offense…”

“Good,” Barone said.  He extended a hand to him.  “Then come with me to the west, we can end this quickly if we work together.   Avenging mother and father was just the first step.   Now, we make them proud.”

“Still… I have to be honest… I don’t think Clayton was as bad as you think he was.” Barton shook his head.   “I’ll help I guess, but I want the truth.   Did Clayton and Beatriz kill mom and dad?”

“No.” Baron said without hesitation.   “They were merely responsible indirectly.  You were too young to remember… I was barely old enough to remember.  But if things would have gone different they would have.”

Barone shook his hand again, urging his brother to take it.  “Put your faith in the King.   If you can do that he will see to it no child endures what we have.   Serve as his sword, and I will stand by you as his shield.”

Barton sighed and slipped his hand into his brother’s.   “I’ll accept.  As long as we stick together, there’s nothing stopping us.”

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