Duke is known generally as a vain person, so much that some people call him Duke Eagle the Vain. All because he sometimes has a guy carry around a mirror so he can look at himself. I’ve been with him for 16 years and I can tell for a fact you that he is incredibly vain, maybe the vainest person who has ever lived, but not because of Evid the mirror carrier.
Duke’s vanity is the fact that when he was born he looked around at the broken depressing state of the world and said to himself “I can make this better and I will make it better”. That is vanity. Thinking that he can change the entire world. The fact that he’s right and he’s doing it right now doesn’t make it any less crazy. You need to be crazy to change the world. Determination, ambition, those qualities are fine but aren’t enough.
I’ve seen dozens, if not hundreds probably, of self-proclaimed warlords of the wastes and lords of this or that get crushed by Duke, I’ve even killed a few of them myself at his command. They all had the drive and ambition to become the leaders of their clans or villages or nomad bands or whatever they oversaw before they died a horrible horrible death, but they didn’t have the staggering vanity necessary to go beyond that.
Maybe they wanted to conquer the next valley over, maybe they dreamed of taking over Scrapper’s Bridge and living the good life, but that was the limit of their aspirations. Ruling the entire world? That was more than their small minds could even comprehend. Forget about ruling the entire world because it could be BETTER.
That’s the difference. Duke is limitless. He’s going to grab everyone by the throat and drag them into a better world. Except for the spineless scum that he crushes along the way, but who’s going to miss spineless scum? Making a better world isn’t an easy process, not everyone is going to make it. Duke does that he has to do because he knows that things will be far worse if he doesn’t.
It doesn’t matter how deadly your killer is, Duke’s is deadlier. It doesn’t matter how massive your army is, Duke’s is bigger. No matter how desperate you are for conquest, Duke hungers for rule more. That is why Duke will win.
The world can’t go on like this for much longer. You can only fall down the ladder for so long before you’re out of rungs and you’re falling into the pit below. Duke is the one that has the fortitude to climb up. Not only to climb for himself but to put us all on his back and carry us up with him. And if that means he has to hack your arms and legs off and strap your limbless torso to his back to carry you with him because you won’t go willing that’s what’s going to happen.
The thing outsiders don’t under is that Duke is motivated by love. What makes him the most dangerous man in the world is that he wants what’s best for everyone. If you’re like an unruly child, if you don’t want to make yourself better, to listen to Duke who knows more than you, well then he’ll make you understand and obey. This is only right and natural. Duke will do whatever he has to for his vision of a better world to become reality.
Greatness cannot be limited.
The problem, because there is always a problem, is that with great people like Duke the same characteristics that make him the savior and the redeemer of us all can very easily lead to his ruin also. He’s walking a narrow cliff with his eyes closed and it’s my job to try and keep him from the fall. A perfect example is this nonsense he’s doing right now. A fight to the death in the Murdertown arena against this smooth-headed upstart? Why? There is literally zero possibility of any upside.
When I met Duke he was in his prime as a fighter. But even then he was never the hardest around. He’s a good fighter, a great fighter even, but that’s not his gift. That’s why we have people like Herk and Bambee around, they were born to end lives, that’s what they do. That’s not Duke’s role in this world. He’s free thinker, a leader, a visionary, a planner, and an organizer. Some calculated risks in battle to earn the loyalty of the fighting force? Sure, has to be done. We don’t live in a world yet where a leader can lead without sharing in the risk a little.
And I wouldn’t have even thought this was a good idea then when he was in his prime. That was 16 years ago. The Duke of today is still an impressive specimen but he’s 16 years slower and 16 years weaker and 16 years more broken down. It’s been years since he’s actually been in any kind of physical danger where he had to fight his way out. Dodging an assassin’s dagger is not the same as duel to the death.
And yes, he’s likely going to win, his opponent is slender as a blade of grass and by all accounts is a shit fighter at best. But you don’t risk the fate of the world on likely. There’s a pre-crash expression that goes “shit happens”. I like that saying because it’s true, you never know what’s going to happen. No matter how certain you are, no matter how much things are in your favor, you never know what could happen.
Heavenly Bishop and Sinful Law laugh at this challenge and say that L-Ah has only survived this long because she’s gotten lucky. It’s true and it’s not funny at all. I’d rather face a skilled opponent than a lucky one. I’d rather face a fearsome opponent than a lucky one. You can’t prepare for luck, you can’t plan for luck, you can’t counter-act luck. There is no strategy for beating someone lucky.
Duke has agreed to this fight for no other reason that he’s bored. He hasn’t fought anyone like this in a long time. He wants to do it so he’s doing it. I’ve begged, I’ve pleaded, I’ve tried everything I could think to try to change his mind, but he won’t. For the same reasons that he’s already accomplished everything that he’s accomplished. He united the entire north because he won’t take no for an answer and he’s not going to start now, even if it gets him killed.