I wrote this story in response to one written by Eli Dupree, alias Elvish Pillager, which he posted on the Wesnoth forums. His is better than mine. The basic premise of his, in case you were wondering, is almost exactly the same as the basic premise of mine, except the two boys aren’t brothers they’re just friends. And while his seems to come out in favor of the one who ends up living, mine doesn’t.
They were only six, but it didn’t matter. You could always tell. They were special. Or so the king’s advisors told him. The brothers would be wise, perhaps even Wise. The king could learn much from them, young as they were.
The brothers did not know this, though. The sons of nobles, summoned by the king? They knew not what it meant, but it did not forebode well. They were young, and frightened, and thought easily of death.
“Eli, are we to die?”
“I… well, I don’t see why the king would kill us. We’ve not tried to kill him. That’s all I know. But, I don’t see death ahead of us.”
“Maybe the king won’t hurt us if we don’t hurt him.”
“Maybe, Madi. Maybe. I wouldn’t want to die now…”
“But we don’t choose when we die, do we? Then we’d be gods. That would be fun.”
“Yeah. I wouldn’t ever die…”
His advisors were right, for once. The king had learned much from these children. He invited them to become his advisors. They were better than the previous ones, even if they were young. So they discussed policy with the king, and wisdom, and death.
“So, Eli, it looks like we are gonna be gods. When are you going to die?”
“Huh? Never! Like you. We know Wisdom, why do we need death?”
“I never said I would not die.”
The king, however, was not a god. When he died, a new one was crowned. This one reigned, begot an heir, and died. Another. But Madi and Eli, they did not die.
“Madi, if you said you will die… when will you die?”
“You will die too, you know.”
“Only if I have no other choice, if my Wisdom becomes futile. But you…”
“I will die when I am ready. When it will make a difference.”
Time passed, as always. Neither died. Kings were crowned, reigned, and died, as always. As it was meant to be. Then, it was Time. The world had changed. The wise had grown to believe in Democracy, in Equality. But the wise had not, and they remembered, dimly, the old truth that no men are created equal. So they resisted, and so they were dispersed.
“So, Madi, are you gonna die now with the Wise?”
“Yes. Will you join me?”
“No, Madi. If Wisdom is now death, I am no longer Wise.”
No men lived in the mountains save the One Who Did Not Die. And he was not remembered, and none knew of him, so he thought. That was as it should be, for he was not Wise, only alive.
But today, a messenger rode into the mountains, towards the castle of the One. With tidings from the land of the dying.
“Who are you, boy? How did you find me?”
“You are Eli, yes? I hear you do not die.”
“That is true.”
“Well, I have news you may with to hear. It seems a distant cousin of mine was like you – didn’t die, I mean. But then he did. Killed. In the Rebellion.”
“Yes, true. So do they still believe in the beliefs of the Great Rebellion?”
“Some. Not me. But, anyway, this cousin, he left instructions to come find you if something happened. And it did.”
“Well… the wise ones are now saying the world is ending. And they are right, this time. The damn magi raised up a mountain to the sky, but it didn’t work, or something – I don’t quite know. But it’s going to fall and crush us, and we all will die. Even you. He says to say… you lost the game.”
“Damn him… well, we shall see. We shall see.” A cold, bitter smile. “I wish you luck, child. You may one day become Wise. Just don’t let it control you.”
“Very well, sir Eli. I’ve told you what I know; use it as you will.”
The boy rode back, out of the mountains, back into the land of the living.
“You have not beaten me yet… I do not choose to die, and I will not.”