Written by Ella Mantry
Life is a journey, and its fairest flowers
Lie in our path beneath pride's trampling feet;
Oh, let us stoop to virtue's humble bowers,
And gather those, which, faded, still are sweet.
These way-side blossoms amulets are of price;
They lead to pleasure, yet from dangers warn;
Turn toil to bliss, this earth to Paradise,
And sunset death to heaven's eternal morn.
A good deed done hath memory's blest perfume,
A day of self-forgetfulness, all given
To holy charity, hath perennial bloom
That goes, undrooping, up from earth to heaven.
Forgiveness, too, will flourish in the skies
Justice, transplanted thither, yields fair fruit;
And if repentance, borne to heaven, dies,
'Tis that no tears are there to wet its root.
~Samuel Griswold Goodrich
His Highness Hired
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A wise man once said that we do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live: courageously or in cowardice, honorably or dishonorably, with purpose or adrift.¹
Change is a power gifted only to those who exercise choice in their manner of living. No difference in life can be made without one to first realize the necessity of reformation before spreading word to the populous. However, the decision to go down a path that makes no ease of travel for those who walk it cannot be made by any one person for another. A leader can illuminate the way for others to follow, but without a staunch motivation to tread, people will not be moved. In this world, a solitary lantern is simply not enough for a metamorphosis of thought and action.
For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder.²
And it was on this ninth of December that rain pelted the outer walls of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense with an unusual fervor. The ominous gloom coagulated in the dank air, making it seem like late evening rather than afternoon.
Vicious though it was, the arrival of the tempest was not completely unannounced. The local weatherman had said during his segment that the area of central New Jersey would be looking forward to a frog-strangler that would most likely carry on through half the night. Gesturing to the weather map behind him, he had told the viewers exactly where and when the shower would strike.
It was the force of the storm that had not been predicted, for the raging downpour brought with it not only limited visibility, but also bone-chilling gusts.
This made things absolutely miserable for the security detail stationed out front at the gates.
More like a guard-strangler thought one of the agents as he marched on with his patrol through the dismal weather, wrapped up in his department-issued plastic poncho that did nothing the keep him from getting drenched.
Within the compound, however, it was quite a different story. The air was kept at a reasonable temperature, even deep within the bowels of the complex. Everything was well lit, if not blanched under the glare of florescent bulbs. Agents hustled about the halls, some transporting stacks of papers, others leather briefcases, but every one of them had a place to go and a task to complete. Their endeavors were carried out with the sound resolve and contentment of an employee that earns their keep.
The entire company seemed to be at ease.
The exception to this being the once-heir to BethMora leaning against the back wall of one of the many conference rooms in area 51.
Prince Nuada was not in the least complacent. In fact, he was rather livid.
These humans, he thought caustically, Think themselves so important with their insufferable meetings. What is the point, when all they do is argue with each other? It was giving him a headache. Even the fish and the demon had grown exasperated with the endless prattle. And is anything ever decided? No, of course not. They can't even realize that their thoughts are the same without knocking their skulls together.
Nuada glared at his surrounding company, challenging any to gather the gall and look his way. The few that did, swallowed and averted their gaze so as not to incur the wrath of the Silverlance. Manning however, seemed oblivious to the prince's threatening scowl. More than likely thinking him cowed by his promise to the red brute.
"Your highness," The director addressed him finally with crisp, official tones. "We'll need your account of the latest mission now, so report down to Agent Hartley for debriefing, will you."And then with their damn protocols. Nuada righted himself abruptly from his position, turned, and left without a glance or word before making his way swiftly down the hall, through the sea of agents who parted to avoid him.
As his silent steps carried him—with all the natural grace of a crown prince—toward his destination, he thought back to the binding agreement that had landed him in this most unfortunate situation.
It was in the Royal Chamber of the cavern wherein the Golden army had slept as he recalled, that the son of the Fallen One, Anung Un Rama, had challenged his right to command. Nuada readied himself for the dual that was to come, but his opponent spoke up once again.
"Look, your highness. As much as I wanna kick your pearly white ass, I don't want to kill ya, seeing as I made a promise to my buddy over there. So whaddya say we stop this now and nobody dies. Go home. Drink a beer or ah, whatever you elves do." The red giant tread toward where the prince stood, holding his sister at bay.
In turn, the prince regarded him warily. He did not know what this human-sympathizing creature was planning, only that it could not be good.
Nuada's eyes narrowed infinitesimally as his enemy stepped closer until he drew himself up.
"I'm afraid there is no way around it demon, for we are completely at odds." Red halted before the largest gear and reached into his coat pocket for his last Cuban cigar. "You seek to protect that which I wish to destroy and in that, there can be no compromise. Look around you. Does this appear to be anything but past the point of no return?" Nuada gestured to the towering shapes gathered on all sides of them. "Your ambition of fraternity is an impossibility, a hopeless dream that will never become a reality. Unless you choose to fight alongside us, this will only end in blood. For I will not stop."
"Now see, I'm not so sure about that." Red pointed out with his cigar. "I think, we can come to an agreement."
"Oh really? What would you suggest then?"
"How about a little wager."
"A bet? You look to end our struggle with a mere bet?"
"Ah, ah, ah. Hear me out. If you win…I'll join you and your merry band of golden boulders." Hellboy bit the end of his cigar and took a moment to light it before taking a long pull. "But if I win,"he said through a puff of smoke "you, join us."
"And gamble the chances of saving my people? For what, the aid of one?" The prince scoffed. "Your bargain holds no value to me."
"Alright, all of us. Me, Abe, Krauss,…and Liz."
"Red." Came the warning from behind him.
"What need do I have of you? I have an unstoppable army."
"And I have a stone fist. Unstoppable force and immovable object, right? But you know, this isn't about who's got the better guns," the prince scowled "this is about whether you're so sure that you can actually beat me with that shiny, little stick of yours."
"Of course I can."
"Then why don't you prove it Goldilocks."
The fight that followed would be forever engraved in Nuada's memory as the moment he'd lost the salvation of his people.
What a fool he had been to stake his one and only chance at purging the world of the humans because of such an irresponsible reason as his pride. He was no longer some military whelp. He should have been above being spurred by an enemy's taunting words.
Yet here he was, honor-bond to assist an organization whose sole purpose was to protect those he had strove so hard to destroy.
The irony of it was not at all lost on him.
Perhaps this was Father's last contempt of him. That with his last breath, he had cursed the Prince to endure the greatest travesty: servitude to the monsters. To play dog to these avaricious beings with empty hearts, who's desire for their sole-benefit killed so many fae, and drove the rest into hiding where they lived now in squalor. To make Nuada heed their will as his proud father once did when he chose to honor their long broken truce.
Therein lay another heartache for the Prince. That he had killed his own father, his beloved ati, for the sake of his people and all for naught.
Weren't they on the same side?
Why didn't King Balor see that the humans would destroy the Earth and all who inhabit it for their own sake, despite the warning words spoken by even some of their "wise" ones? Why didn't he see that they needed to act now or fade forever into darkness? Why didn't he see that his son only wanted to make him proud?
But "why" was no longer worth asking.
He didn't, and Nuada had to kill him for his blindness.
It disgusted him.
How did I become this wretch? He thought as he walked. When did I become this traitor, one that kills the king yet aids the filth? Where has my honor gone?
Indeed, that was what led him to start his crusade against humanity, yet now kept him bound to it. Everything seemed to boil down to that one, solitary thing. He was stuck, and whatever path he took violated that deep-seated moral code on some level. It forced him to choose between two evils, two crimes.
Truthfully, he could have continued on the mission he had set out to accomplish, broken his word for the betterment of his people. But who would bow to a king that could not keep a simple bargain? What good was he if he could not uphold a covenant?
He felt worthless.
A sad excuse for a prince.
Yet though he had lost esteem as a leader, he had gained the better favor of his sister, which was something he had thought nearly impossible until recently.
Indeed, the Golden Army and his rally against the humans had been forever put to rest, and their relationship was better for it...though not where he had always wished. She no longer treated him with veiled fear, but came no closer to his heart of hearts.
But now those dreams of love-realized too needed to be cast aside, for he no longer stood a chance.
What with her beloved Abraham.
The water-dweller had won his sisters admiration in ways that for all his worth Nuada could not, and he did so with but a few awkwardly expressed words and good timing.
For that, Nuada cursed him.
He wasn't even a son of the Earth.
He was neither royal, not valiant, nor tenacious, but another week-minded human-lover and one of the arrogant fools who stood against him.
With that scorn, it was safe to say the Nuada thought him less than unworthy.
Thus, it was for his sister's happiness and hers alone, that he kept distant rather than hostile air between the two of them, spiteful though he may be. Nuala always tried to encourage better feelings, but Nuada was steadfast. Perhaps once those towering walls of disapprobation waned, he could learn to...not hate him. But that wouldn't be for quite a while.
These thoughts and more plagued him the whole march to the office for his debriefing. His sister had always cautioned of how his introspection would lead him to a darkened state and he knew it to be yet another way in which he wasn't good enough for her, she who glowed like the evening star, but he couldn't help it.
That was simply the way he was—the way he had always been—and it wasn't about to change. It was why his lips and hollows round his eyes were tainted black, and his face more aged.
Dark thought only begets dark blood, and he always had shadows lurking within his heart.
So it was with a sense of profound self-loathing that he arrived at the small desk of the toad-like Agent Hartley, the lowly human who ran the archives, where he grudgingly recanted the tale of his most recent betrayal.
Disclaimer: As you can probably guess, I lay no claim whatsoever to the wonderful characters, settings, and plots of Hellboy©. They belong to the brilliant writer and artist of the comic, Mike Mignola. I do however express my creative licence as a FanFiction author to borrow and to bend those aforementioned characters as well as my ownership over any original characters, settings, and plots I so choose to add in.
1) Joseph Epstein
2) Frederick Douglass
Poem by Samuel Griswold Goodrich is public domain.
Side note: For any and all who follow this story, or if you are a guest: visit frequently for news, I apologize if you thought this was a new chapter update; I found some errors in grammar and formatting, so I wanted to fix them. However, there is a new lunar section (as you can see) at the beginning which plays an important role, and some new paragraphs of story towards the end.
If you haven't been following in some fashion, good that you didn't see the product before it was finished and please ignore the first bit of my note. With that in mind, please keep reading.
I must thank you most ardently for perusing my story. This is actually my first piece and I sincerely hope you all enjoyed it. I'm not sure when I'll update next, but hopefully it will be sometime over break since I will have so much free time. Speaking of freedom, feel free to review and please give me feedback: constructive criticism is more than welcome! If you want to know any more about me or the stories I am thinking of writing in the future, check out my FanFiction profile. On that note, I am also looking for a beta so if anyone would be interested, please message me. I suppose that's it for now. Once again, thank you so much!