The First Time
The first time Kass felt weak, he was picking himself up from the ground.
If anyone asked, he would tell them that he had simply tripped. But Kass knew better. And so did Galgarroth, who had walked away but not without a final sneer over his shoulder.
Alright, so, maybe he was getting annoyed at Galgarroth's constant boasts about his acceptance into the Citadel Guards after graduation. He had spoken of nothing else for days, and still the entire school crowded around him to ask for details about his new glamorous job. Does he get to beat people up? Is it dangerous? What was Lord Darigan REALLY like?
Kass personally thought it was not all that impressive. Galgarroth would stand on a wall all day, every day, guarding against... well, the Citadel was a floating fortress, after all. He would have nothing to guard against except wayward birds and strong winds. Glamorous.
Kass was most definitely not jealous. At all. He wasn't.
Maybe the remark about Galgarroth's mother was a little out of line, and not one of his best ideas considering Galgarroth is almost twice his size and had shoved him over with only one arm.
But as Kass picked himself up, he couldn't bring himself to regret it, despite the fact that his arms stung where he fell on them and that more and more of their classmates walked by him with a look of slight disdain before running after Galgarroth to ask about his combat training.
He sighed, and limped away in the opposite direction.
The first time Kass felt ashamed, he was standing in front of his father.
He had caved and applied to join the Citadel Guards, hoping to make his father, second in command under the General himself, proud.
The General took one look at him and shook his head. "Next."
Kass frowned. "But, sir..."
"But nothing, kid. Come back in a few years, alright? A breeze could knock ya over the walls, can't have that on the front lines now can we? Next." He repeated impatiently and waved at one of the guards to show him out.
With growing horror, Kass realized that the guard assigned the task of kicking him out the doors was none other than Galgarroth. He had gotten even bigger in the last few years, somehow, and was showing all of his teeth in a feral grin as he grabbed Kass by the arm and started to steer him out.
Kass tried to look at his father, standing stoically behind the General's desk. But he just turned his head slightly and refused to meet his eyes.
Hot shame burned through Kass, and he barely noticed as Galgarroth threw him none-so-gently out of the main Citadel doors.
"Just like old times, eh?"
Kass picked himself up, and did not reply.
The first time Kass felt regret, he was scrubbing chamber pots.
He had finally qualified to join the Citadel Guards, but it was still not easy. His father had disappeared on a routine patrol, presumably imprisoned or worse. He would not get to see Kass rise in the ranks, but at least he would also not get to see Kass on his knees scrubbing at stains with a small brush.
Disputes between Darigan and Meridell had become more heated, of late. Berry farmers were complaining about the Citadel looming over their fields, but Darigan diplomats argued that this airspace was perfectly within the agreements of the original treaty. It was not their fault that Meridell had begun to expand further into the hills.
Point was, Kass had much better things he could be doing. Actual guard things.
Unfortunately, his direct commanding officer was Galgarroth. And maybe his mouth got a little away from him again, but really, two weeks of cleaning duty for "insubordination towards a superior officer" was a little much. Didn't they have Citadel servants for this? Kass grumbled under his breath and hoped they enjoy their two weeks off while he was slaving away.
It was all Galgarroth's fault for strutting around, being so smug all the time, anyway. They really should stop handing him promotions before his head gets so big that the Citadel sinks.
This, he thought as he viciously jabbed the brush into a corner, was not what he signed up for.
The first time Kass hurt somebody who was in his way, it was because of something he did not do rather than something he did do. Sort of.
Galgarroth had moved a few more pegs up the ladder, and was now Lord Darigan's right hand man. This left Kass under the direct command of an unfortunately clumsy Skeith named Jedder who got to his rank not by being particularly good at his job but rather by being particularly large.
And inevitably, Jedder ended up too close to the edge of the Citadel during night patrol just as a strong wind swept through in between the towers and knocked him over.
Jedder clung to the edge, eyes pleading for help as his small wings flapped uselessly behind him.
Kass reflected on the irony of the situation. That he was once told a strong breeze would knock him over, but here he was, the last guard standing.
But Kass had grown, since then. Even Galgarroth could not push him over so easily anymore. In fact, he was fairly sure that many of the new recruits feared HIM, and the thought that he could intimidate others so pleased him probably a little more than it should have.
He turned his attention back to the struggling Skeith. "I cannot lift you up by myself, Jedder. Try to hang on a little bit longer. I will go ask for help."
Later, after he heard that Jedder had unfortunately fallen over the edge, he expressed his sincerest regrets that despite everything he tried he could not save a fellow guard.
As they handed him a promotion to take Jedder's former position, Kass congratulated himself on a job well done and a role well played.
The first time Kass actually spoke directly to Lord Darigan, he was ignored.
He was now one of the more senior officers in the Citadel Guards, and thus his presence was required at all strategy meetings.
It was his not-so-humble opinion that Lord Darigan's strategy was a pile of rotten berries.
Kass cleared his throat. "My Lord, I do not believe we are obligated to rewrite the treaty in favor of Meridell just because of the complaints of a few farmers below."
He got a noncommittal grunt in response from Galgarroth, who kept pointing at the maps to see where they could fly without encroaching on farmland. Lord Darigan seemed to nod in agreement.
Kass fumed silently, but said no more. They would see the foolishness of their ways, soon enough, he was sure.
The first time Kass met The Three, he knew they could help him achieve everything he ever wanted. Power, they promised him. Wealth, respect, control, everything.
Darigan is weak. But Kass was not, not anymore.
Ambition is key, they said. So he overthrew Lord Darigan. It was no grand declaration or civil war. He simply told the people that Darigan was planning to concede even more space to Meridell. Why should they, proud people of the Citadel, cower before the demands of berry farmers and potato counters? The people, of course, sided with him. After that, it was easy.
Revenge is sweet, they whispered. So he had Galgarroth locked in the dungeons. The look on his face even before the cell door closed was satisfying enough. But Kass made a point to visit his favorite prisoner often, just to gloat a little. It was most certainly not like old times.
Greed is necessary, he heard in his mind. So he made demands of Meridell instead of settling for what they had before. A part of him worried that he asked too much, but the voice in his head assured him that it was still not enough. It would never be enough. Meridell should just become part of Darigan, should it not? It would be better for all to be united under one rule. Kass did not disagree.
He did what the voices wanted, and he got what he wanted. Darigan was his, and Meridell will be soon. Nothing would stand in his way for long.
The first time Kass questioned his sanity, it was already too late.