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All The King's Horses

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Long ago, when the land was at peace and beings of all kinds lived together in harmony, there was a kingdom known as Achievia. The kingdom was an old kingdom, led by generations after generations of good and kind hearted kings who had made the land grow and prosper like no kingdom before. The land was rich and fertile, with bountiful and never ending harvest. The people lived comfortably and well, as their resources never grew short. Poverty and disease was non-existent as everyone was content in their needs. Achievia was considered the greatest kingdom in all of the land.

Up till the great devastation 50 years ago.

The last king to rule the kingdom of Achievia was the just and intelligent King Ryan Haywood. He was as good a king as the others before him and he ruled with a fair hand. The people adored him for his kind heart, and his armies respect him for his strategies and subtle methods in resolving inter-kingdom conflict.

The king was a great ruler but a quiet man and had few but very close friends. He had only four men in his life whom he could call the only true friends he had ever had. His first friend was his childhood friend, Geoff who had become his advisor when he ascended the throne. Geoff was the son of a noble that was close friends with his father so Ryan as a child would always spend time with him when they visited. Geoff was a very casual man who drank too much wine for an advisor, but always had a sharp and quick-witted mind on his shoulders. He also had a full and compassionate heart worn proudly on his sleeve, which Ryan and many others respect him for.

The second was Jack, who was considered the youngest and greatest travelling artisan of that time. Jack would always be commissioned by Ryan’s father to build sculptures, structures and weapons so he visited the kingdom quite frequently for work. This was how Ryan met him one day, as Ryan was curios and was always willing to learn more. Jack would let Ryan watch him work as he would also make conversation, slowly making them friends. When Ryan became king, Jack continued to work on commissions for him with utmost priority and would come visit as often as he could. Jack was a pacifist and kind from the bottom of his heart. He was sincere and honest in everything he did, and Ryan liked that most about him.

Then there were the youngest two, Michael and Ray. Michael and Ray were orphans who lived in an orphanage in the outskirts of the city. Ryan had met them one day when he snuck out for a walk through the outskirts in disguise to see how the lifestyle was like outside the castle walls. He stumbled upon them fending off a few forest bandits kidnapping the younger orphans at the edge of the forest, where they were playing.

Michael was a brawler with strength that rivalled a bear ten times his size. He fought ruthlessly and showed the bandits no mercy, quickly decimated them with nothing but with the brute force of his fists. Ray, however, was the opposite. Using a broken branch, he dispatched the bandits with grace and precision, only hitting critical areas of the body to completely immobilize them with minimum effort.

Ryan was about to assist them but saw that they handled the situation with little problem. He helped them escort the children back to the orphanage and instantly struck up a friendship with them. Ray and Michael had no care for his status as royalty and would always meet up with him when he came down to the outskirts, which was as often as he could.

Ray was a calm and level-headed person, a contrast to Michael’s fiery personality but Michael wore his heart on his sleeve. They both earned a spot in Ryan’s close circle of friends and when Ryan became king, he immediately appointed them as knights. In little to no time, Ray had become Commander-in-Chief of the kingdom’s army due to his adaptable strategies and skill whereas Michael became Field Marshal and the strongest knight in the army.

Ryan would have never been where he was now if it were not for his closest friends who had given him advice and council throughout his life. Geoff’s wisdom, Jack’s understanding, Ray’s calm and Michael’s loyalty. All of which he loved most from each of them.

It was this thought that led him to an epiphany. Without realising, he had fallen in love with his four closest friends and could do nothing about it because such a love was forbidden in those times and could mean his death. Ryan did not dare reveal his feelings toward his friends, afraid they might reject him, and hid his emotions in the darkest depths of his heart, forever remaining as one of his deepest and darkest desires.

This brought forth Achievia’s undoing. A dark and sinister creature that lay beneath the kingdom, waiting for its time to strike, felt the dark desire festering in Ryan’s heart and assaulted the young king’s mind one night. Ryan, who had studied magic before, managed to shield his mind from the demon but the demon’s voice remained, tempting and goading him to give in but Ryan held his ground.

Knowing his court might not believe him and not wanting to tell his friends lest he reveal his true feelings towards them, he kept the demon in his mind a secret and tolerated the voice till he found a way to remove it. Ryan had a strong will and he was confident he could keep the demon at bay for the time being, much to the demon’s annoyance.

However, the demon was an ancient evil and knew how to manipulate Ryan’s young mind.

One day, Ryan found out that Jack had to leave the country for work and would not know when he would be back. No matter how much Ryan tried to convince Jack to stay, Jack still had to leave as he had a debt to a king from a kingdom in another country. Even if Ryan offered to pay his debt for him, Jack refused as it would not be honourable. This made Ryan furious and the demon took its chance.

With sweet temptations and enough goading, Ryan’s desire overwhelmed him and the seed of madness was sowed in his heart. On the night before Jack’s departure, Ryan requested Jack to see him to wish him farewell and Jack went to see him unknowing of the misfortune awaiting him. With guidance from the demon, Ryan turned Jack into a statue, forever immobile and frozen in time, to ensure Jack would stay forever.

Ryan ensured nobody knew of this, convincing everyone Jack had left earlier, and kept Jack in his garden among his other statues. Every week Ryan would visit Jack and spoke with him without response. This made some of the members in his court worried but they shrugged it off as early signs of senility.

Next was when Ryan found that Ray had become more bored and absentminded during their weekly meetings. Ray was always absent from his chambers and not in the castle most of the time, only speaking with Michael in the mornings and then leaving for most of the day. Ryan then found out why when he was on his way to visit Jack in his garden one day.

He found that Ray was spending most of his time in the garden, tending to a rose bed made of luscious blood-red roses. Ray held each rose with such delicacy and gentleness that Ryan could not help but feel jealous. The demon ensnared Ryan’s mind once more with exaggerated claims and prodding till Ryan snapped.

That night, Ryan called Ray to the castle’s garden and cursed the roses that Ray so lovingly grew to trap and consume his heart, his soul forever trapped in a cage of thorns while his body became a mindless puppet to the king.

Then, Ryan heard word of Michael courting a woman. Filled with envy and resentment, he demanded to know who it was and found out that it was a healer whom Michael had met when he was wounded and had frequently visited since. Madness continued to grow in Ryan’s heart and in outrage; he ordered her execution for a crime he had framed her for. When Michael heard of the news, he immediately confronted the king alone and refuted Ryan’s claims of her crimes while willing to prove her innocence.

This enraged Ryan and even without the demon’s encouragement, he had cursed the armour Michael wore to force him into obedience. Michael would never be able to feel happiness as he too would be imprisoned by the flames of rage as Ryan was, by his own armour that protected him. This curse turned Michael into nothing but an unstoppable killing machine that then the demon used to conquer other nearby kingdoms which started to destroy the life of peace the kingdom had for many years.

Geoff, shocked by the actions of his childhood friend, attempted to reason with Ryan but Ryan was too far gone in his madness. The demon had long taken over and the man Ryan was before had been buried under the sea of insanity.

The demon, knowing Geoff to be the only voice of reason left that Ryan would listen too, sealed Geoff’s voice away and transformed his appearance so he would be unrecognizable and then tossed him into a pit in the forest, never to be seen or heard of again.

The demon, using Ryan’s body, took charge of the kingdom and sought to take over other empires by force and bloodshed. The people suffered great losses and the soldiers became expendable puppets for the demon to use. The villagers were dying from starvation and poverty. The crops were destroyed by enemy troops and what was left of the livestock died from disease.

The title of the Mad King was born and kingdoms all over the region feared and trembled at the sound of his name. The world was in chaos and monsters from the Nether fed on the destruction and carnage of the war between kingdoms.

For the first time in centuries, Achievia had fallen.

The war had caused imbalance and threatened the harmony between dimensions. Thus, this had triggered a phenomenon that had not occurred for millions of years. From the darkest regions of The End, the Ender Lord awoke from his eternal slumber and involved himself in the war to end it once and for all. With the power of the Endermen and the Ender Dragon, the Ender Lord squashed anyone who stood in his way and destroyed the Mad King’s forces with little effort.

The Ender Lord then placed a curse on the Mad King and his thralls; to never be able to set foot outside the Mad King’s domain till the king’s madness has been exorcised. The Ender Lord took pity on the cursed ones the king once called his closest friends and instead made them guardians of the domain to ensure only a person worthy enough could enter the Mad King’s Keep.

Till now, the Mad King’s domain in the darkest regions of the Dark Forest, protected by the Guardians, still remains where the Mad King and his thralls lay asleep. Waiting for the day to be set free from the curse of the Ender Lord; waiting for a brave adventurer or an unsuspecting traveller to free them from their eternal bonds.

Or a desperate idiot by the name of Gavin Free.