Friday, November 27, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-09

Eventually I sent my son off to sleep also. I stayed up; being king has its perks, even in the most primitive of conditions.

So many dead at my hands over the years. I didn't bother telling either of them about the fighting and killing I did as a youth; after all the epic slaughter before and after the apocalypse, a handful of shankings when I was a kid doesn't merit inclusion outside of my memoirs- not that writing means much anymore, but I do it anyway.

I got bored and slept in short order. The next day, over breakfast, my son and I broke the news to Jeremy. He took it far better than we thought.

"So, you want me to go look up old Ken, see about a daughter, and then bring them back here?"

We nodded, and that was that.

Now, being old and such, I really can't say for certain what it took to get that done. What I know is what Jeremy and Ken told me, which goes something like this: Jeremy took a man with him and they set out for one of the regular haunts that Ken would visit at that time of the year. They arrived to find a woman roughly his mother's age and a girl a few years young than himself tending to a cabin that wasn't there when I was there last, which was many years ago. The woman was one of Ken's concubines, put there to be a custodian year-round, and the girl was his daughter by that woman. It turned out that Ken arrived with a few others in his train the next day, and when the two had their sit-down Ken altered his plans right away to come see me.

So, all told this errand had the boy away for a month and most of that was evading zeds too troublesome to take on. The marriage was agreed to, and thankfully--again--the girl took a liking to my grandson. While my son and her mother negotiated details, Ken and I had a nice little reunion of sorts after many years going our own way.

"You're dying." Ken said, "I can smell it."

"I'm old, you corpse-eating freak. It happens to normal men."

"What do your people think of this marriage?"

"I don't care. They'll go along with it or the zeds will eat them, and then my progeny will eat their animated corpses."

"Now that's the right bastard I remember."

Friday, November 20, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-08

"Father, I heard you talking about the limits of what a hard man can hold. I think we're at that limit given our own band of men. We have control over all the lakes and our base here on Mille Lacs allows us to feed from the lake's fish year-round as well as take advantage of the fresh water. We're not likely to do much better than this, not with the pressure coming from the Necromancer to the south. I think we should reconsider future plans."

"You're reconsidering whom to marry the boy off to."

"We're not going to make it as just ordinary men. We can't keep up the numbers, or the material, for much longer. As soon as whatever it is that consumes The Necromancer's attention is done, he'll turn again north and come at us with a tidal wave of zeds to wash us away. We need to take any advantage we can get if what you carved out of the ruins is to endure well into Jeremy's lifetime."

"To what do we turn then?" I said, "We sell ourselves to some witch? That will go well when Ken hears of it. The natives fled deeper into the wilderness, those that survived, and that meant going further north so they're out. Are we to produce nuclear weapons out of tinfoil and beer? Come on, son! There is only one option of that sort open to us."

"Yes. One."

"We'll tell the boy tomorrow after breakfast. It'll give him time to prepare."

"For what?"

"The journey. He's got to be the one to go bring Ken back. You're going to be too busy keeping the place going to go running around the field."

"You know what else that means, Father."

"Yes, and I know that some of the homesteads aren't keen on Stalkers. Too bad. It's join Ken's people or die out, and I'm not one for dying out- even if I don't have much longer myself to live."

"It's decided then?"

"Hell yes it is. Ken's got to have a daughter by now. Jeremy's marrying her and breeding heirs, like it or not."

Friday, November 13, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-07

"You talk a lot about men, Grandfather."

"That's because men have depth to them. Women don't. Women are simple creatures, and should never be trusted to be anything but a woman. That's how I stayed with your grandmother for as long as I did."

"That's harsh."

"Only because it's gotten a lot better since the Old World died in fire. The women that survived had to clean up and get back in line if they wanted to live, and the girls born since--like your mother--weren't allowed to degenerate into the wretched whores that their mothers were. For all that got lost, what's come in its wake proved to me that this was the best thing that could have happened to Mankind. The natural order is back for good."

The boy nodded, but I knew he didn't get it yet. Fortunately, he didn't have to get it just yet- and I'd be deciding on his wife anyway, so all he had to do was follow orders until he grokked it. It's not like there's a lot of available women around to mess him up in the head or otherwise make a mess of things.

"Enough. Bed. Now."

Jeremy did as I told him, and off he went to bed. Shortly thereafter my son came in with a mug of brew and sat in his place.

"Telling him stories again, Dad?"

I cupped him for his manners.

"Sorry, Father."

"Better, and yes- because he asked, and he has a need to know now that he's coming into manhood. He's got to know why things are what they are if he's to rule well when the time comes."

"I don't recall you ever being that dismissive with Mother."

"Because your mother, at the time the world ended, was still a child. Her parents got eaten by zeds, and Ken took her in thinking he could groom her for a mate. He traded her to me in return for taking him in and healing him up after that incident with the witch in the lighthouse and the crazy cult that arose in her wake. When she was ready, I took her as my wife and that ensured that I didn't have to clean out bad programming."

I saw on my son's face that our age difference never crossed his mind. She was born on the cusp of the millenium, and I took her as she came of age. Well, after the end of the Old World no one in their right mind balks at young women married to mature men. Sure, I put three children to her in five years; we needed numbers, and that's why I married her. Love had nothing to do with it at all; I needed a loyal wife who I could train to be a competent wife and mother, and she did just fine.


"Yes, son, when I made that deal for your wife I had the exact same thing going in my mind: getting a young woman that could be readily trained to be good at the jobs needed of her. It helps that she actually liked you. Your mother respected and appreciated me, but that sort of thing never existed."

"Widowers both we are now." he said.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The End Began in the Middle-06

"So everything was coming together to blow it all apart?" he said, and I nodded.

"Yeah, that's it exactly. While it still held together, I took as much as I could from the dead and used it to prepare for this." I said, waiving around the room we sat in, "Not that most of those cultists had any sense to prepare for anything like this, so looting their corpses and then their accounts was a lot easier than I expected. Soon I had all of this land, the buildings, the stores, and so on ready and waiting for the shit to hit the fan. All I had to do was get out of the Cities and make it here, and I knew I had it made."

"How long?"

"Ah, now we're moving from 'How did I destroy a social cancer disguised as a movement?' to 'How did I found a new kingdom out of these ashes?' A good time for that transition, since there's not much else to talk about in terms of how I contributed to the burning to ashes of the Old World- and why it deserved to die screaming for its mother like the pathetic bitch it was."

He chuckled.

"Well, as dramatic as hacking my way through a sea of zeds would be, that's not how it happened. I got a tip from someone I knew who went into the Spook world that something big was due in three days, and I should bug out. I took that warning seriously, cleared out my place in town, and then I fled the Cities and came here. I didn't warn anyone else, because fuck them. Whomever managed to not get eaten and still made it I'd consider letting in."


"Twenty got here. I put half of them down because they got bit and lied to me about it; that's where the bone pile started. After that first winter I started going around to the others nearby and gave them the choice, and that's when I began building the kingdom that you have been born into."

"And become king of in time."

Now I chuckled.

"If you live long enough to succeed your predecessors. For all that your father and I made of our killing powers we are still mortal men- we do have limits. Don't be like the dumbasses who thought that words had power by themselves; real power, real ruling, relies on hard men ready and willing to kill and kill and kill to get and keep that power. That means that there is only so much that one hard man can rule; to do more than that you need loyal men, and that means finding men worthy of your loyalty. That, my boy, is the real hard part. Kingdoms rise and fall by the power of the king to find and keep good men at his side."