Tyrant is the one-shot that almost never was. I originally planned on writing it on May 25, 2014 - inspired by episode 7 of Game of Thrones season 4. However, I got sidetracked with other things, and I never got around to writing it that day. Next, I was planning on writing it on June 5, 2014, but literally as I sat down to write it, my internet went out. I wrote the first two paragraphs of the story and then stopped writing at that time, because I needed music to write to, and without internet, I couldn't listen to the songs I wanted to. It's a pity I didn't get to write it that day because I had just finished watching Cowboy Bebop a few minutes before and I was on an emotional high and ready to write. Next, I planned on writing it on June 8, 2014, just after episode 9 of Game of Thrones season 4 aired. However, due to my sleep schedule, I wasn't able to. I went to bed immediately after the episode because I woke up at around 11pm June 7, 2014, and the episode aired at 6pm June 8, 2014. So I was just too exhausted to write after the episode finished. I planned again on writing it on June 9 2014, but I ending up spending much of the day playing Halo 4 with Hyper Zergling and attending to other affairs in my personal life; by the time I was emotionally ready to begin, I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. I had prolonged discussions with Hyper Zergling about my Halo story and Destructivedisk about Game of Thrones which also delayed me writing Tyrant and somewhat subsided my emotional state, so I wasn't able to write on this day.
I ended up making a playlist over Youtube for writing this story. It started with five songs, but with the release of the Game of Thrones season 4 soundtrack a few days before episode 9 aired, I added some new songs in. You Are No Son of Mine and The Children were both songs from that TV show that hadn't been used yet, so it was a bit odd listening to them. Still, they worked for me quite well. I ended up finally writing Tyrant on June 15, 2014, finishing it less than an hour before the season finale for Game of Thrones season 4 aired. I desperately wanted to finish the story before that episode aired because I felt like the emotions it would make me feel wouldn't be helpful for writing this story.
I had the name Tyrant long before I started writing the one-shot. I discussed Tyrant by name with Destructivedisk back in May, long before I wrote it. I knew it would be about Frieza, but I didn't have specifics. Even when I sat down the first time and wrote the first two paragraphs, I didn't know where I was going with the story. When I ended up writing it on June 15, the plot was all improv'd. I think I listened through the 27 minute Tyrant playlist 5-6 times before finishing the story. Once it was finished, I posted it immediately.
Once Tyrant was posted, I was thinking more and more about combining my newest one-shots (Bluestreaker, Lionheart, and this one) into a collection. The idea of 3 good guys, 3 bad guys, and Shenron persisted. I realized that all three I had written by this point had been about bad guys. So it could work. I didn't have a name for the collection yet, and as I had so many other stories I was working on, making these one-shots into a larger group wasn't a priority. I didn't have characters for the three good guys at this point, so it would be useless to make the collection page. So I just posted Tyrant at the time and made it a proper one-shot. Of course, by now, I've added it into The Black and White Collection. Of note is that by this point, I stopped putting up descriptions for my one-shots. I wanted to keep the page neat and minimalistic, so the property and universe template plus the actual story was all that was needed. People would have to read to figure out who the main character was because of that.
Their corpses had already been rotting for a long time when he finally beheld them. Pale, rotting flesh clothed the dead in hideous, wrinkled clumps. It looked like melted cheese in the spots where the skin had slid from the faces, revealing bones and dark streaks of stagnant blood. They had people once, great rulers of their planets. And now they were empty husks, nothing more than fodder for the worms.
He could not look away. Their deathly glow enthralled him. And as the thirteen dead emperors stared up at him, deathly white and cold, he thought he saw their lips curl in smiles or smirks. Perhaps it was their skin tightening around their lips or they were laughing at him from the nothingness, but he could not tell. They were his audience; he was their emperor now. But he wasn’t one of them. He would never be one of them.
He found himself shaking, his fingers moving uncontrollably at his sides. He made fists to stop that. These dead men frightened him. They pierced his heart with their unremitting gazes. But they were dead. How could the affect him? He didn’t know. He didn’t want to know. He felt himself trembling again, and this time making fists could not stop it.
He didn’t hear the door open behind him. Suddenly, a figure brushed into sight with a dignified, if torpid stroll. The figure looked at the corpses, yawning and unperturbed.
“What do you think, Frieza?” the taller figure spoke, barely concealing a second yawn.
“Th-they… they’re pathetic, father!” Frieza squeaked out. His voice was quiet, weak, wavering. It was as if his courage had died with the emperors and buried itself in his throat. Speech was not easy in their presence.
“Hmm, yes. In their own way,” his father replied. Nodding to himself, King Cold stepped over the malodorous flesh to reach for a bottle of his favorite ice wine. “You know who they are, son?” King Cold asked him as he poured out the magenta liquid into a spotless glass.
“W-weaklings…” Frieza stammered.
“Kings,” his father corrected him. “Great rulers of entire worlds. They were powerful once.”
“Not anymore,” Frieza sneered, though his lips were pursed from the mephitic stench more so than from his glee in lording over them.
His iniquitous lord, the death-bringer to the thirteen, smiled and took a long sip from his cup. “Death comes to everyone, Frieza. Even you and I, one day. We will be no better than them,” King Cold gestured to the carcasses. “Kings die in the same manner as everyone else. It doesn’t matter how strong you were in life. Death makes us all equal.”
All color drained from Frieza’s small face. His eyes squinted in fear, in horror, over the mere thought of it. How could he ever become like those kings? How could he ever die? He was Frieza! The son of the greatest king the universe had ever known. They were special; they were not like the rest. He didn’t want to be equal. He wanted to be better. He could not be like those lying before him. He would not. So Frieza screwed up his face, forgot the smell of carrion, blinked the tears from his eyes, and looked his father right in the face.
“I’ll never die!”
It sounded good in his head. It sounded powerful, like the voice of a king’s son, stately and cool, proud and fearless. He was not going to die. He was special. He was strong. He was unwilling. And his will was all that counted.
It came out in a desperate gasp, a last throw from child to the universe, beckoning it to take him on. He was not ready, nor willing to do so. But his birthright could not be ignored. Death was so final; he did not ever want to go. The universe would be his one day, and it should always remain his. It wasn’t fair for anyone else to take that from him.
Frieza saw the look in his father’s eyes and immediately regretted his declaration. How could he be so stupid to say that?! His father was smarter and older than he. Surely, he knew more about death than Frieza could ever hope to. Still, the boy hated death. He had to try, at least.
“I’ll become immortal! Like the gods!” Frieza spoke up, defending himself from his father and the laws of nature in one fell swoop. But his crestfallen, boyish demeanor betrayed his doubt.
His father looked at him with those same, disappointed eyes, then took a long drink from his cup, draining its alcoholic contents as if it were his job. He was very good at his job. “Frieza, my son, there are no gods. We are all there is. And as long as we are strong, we will live. But nothing lasts forever. While life is good, make it count.”
His father exited even as Frieza’s mind raced about the room, clinging to any furious thought like the crows to meat. There had to be a way to cheat death, some little trick everyone had overlooked. The thirteen emperors, his father, everyone before them, they had been blind. They hadn’t even entertained the idea that one could live forever.
Frieza sniffed. He smelled nothing. He felt nothing. The anger, the panic, the deathly fright was gone from him. He was kingly. He was in control of his emotions. He was not weak. He would find a way to immortality. He would search the whole universe if that’s what it took. But he would not die. He would prove his father wrong. Frieza was special. He would never be like anyone else. He would never die. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. He would do anything, everything, to escape his fate.
Kings make their own fate.
Today is not the day I die.
That was his folly. That was his empty husk. Why had he been such a stupid child?
Frieza squirmed in his bed, his eyes shut and his mind wide open. The pain was unbelievable. He whimpered, cried, bit his lip until he tasted blood. And still the shocks of pain came at him. They came in waves, in jolts, and he felt every one of them.
Every breath was a screaming pain unknowable and indescribable. Had the thirteen kings his father had showed him all those years ago felt this? Surely not. Had anybody ever felt what he was feeling? How could his father be so cruel? How had could he and his mother have brought Frieza into this world of hurt. He hated them. He wanted to kill them. But he was too weak, in too much delirium. The thoughts were out of his mind with the next wave of pain.
He had been a fool, a wretch. He had thought he could find immortality. He had thought he could cheat death. He could be the eternal ruler of the universe. But he wouldn’t. He didn’t want that anymore. He just wanted an end to the pain, to the laborious thoughts of existence. He was not a foolhardy child any longer. He knew his place. He knew what needed to happen.
Let me die.
He had not the strength to weep, and barely could he moan out when the pains hit him. He absorbed them in quiet, but they were his roaring hell, a great hideous maw reaching up to tear at him as if he were a prized piece of sweetmeat. Then, a light dawned on him. His eyes recoiled, scampering back into the farthest depths of his ravaged skull to escape the piercing shine. He felt something touching him. He wanted to fight it, to push it away, to kill it, but he could not so much as move a muscle.
Let me die.
He felt himself being pulled out of his cozy bed into the cold of the open air. Liquid flowed off his body and his wounds burned fiercely. He was screaming in his head, but he could not open his mouth. Where was he? Who was he? He didn’t know. He wanted the pain to stop. He wanted to die. But they would not let him. Instead, they pried open his hiding eyes, glaring a monumentally severe light at him. At first, all he saw was white. Then, black spots filled his murky vision, and soon, these faded into sharp reality. Another quiver of pain shot up his body and he let out a hoarse and tortured breath.
“Lord Frieza! Lord Frieza!” someone shouted. He didn’t know who Lord Frieza was.
Another chirped, “Milord, we rescued you from the ruins of Planet Namek. You were gravely injured. We had to treat you immediately…”
The figure went on. He did not care nor hear him anymore. Another flash of pain crippled his body and he felt the shock consume his mind. Fighting back against the pain, he contorted his face into a sneer, pushing all of his remaining energy to his throat. He had to put an end to this. He couldn’t withstand it any longer. An end to this was all he wanted. It was all he could want.
“K-kill.. me…” he sobbed. Then there was silence as cold as space itself. Blinking rapidly, he looked around the room, desperate for some acknowledgement that someone, anyone had heard his plea.
Then a figured entered his sight, and this man was taller than the rest. He wore a long cape and shining armor. This man was his father, he knew. How he knew, he did not know. Flashes of that day entered his mind then. The pouring of the ice wine. The rotting corpses. The look in his eyes. The disappointment. The naivety. Here again, he saw his father, and he had the same look in his eyes.
“Frieza, it’s okay. You’re safe now, son. That detestable monkey won’t win. He won’t kill you. You’re not dying today. We will save you!”
His lip trembled again. Fear washed over him with the pain, hand-in-hand. All he could see with his waking eyes was the lifeless stares of the thirteen dead emperors. He had been like them once – the noble lord Frieza, the voices assured him – but now he was nothing. He couldn’t even die.
- In the original draft of this one-shot, Frieza was not frightened by the corpses. I thought it would be more interesting if the fledgling tyrant was scared of them, so I changed it.
- The descriptions of the corpses were inspired by a scene from the second novel in A Song of Fire and Ice, where one of the point-of-view characters (Arya Stark) sees a bunch of rotting corpses in hanging cages. The scene was beautifully-written, and I loved how Arya wasn't too phased by the sign of the corpses. So having Frieza be scared of them was great, because it brings up the larger question of mortality in general. Frieza is afraid to die, so naturally he should be afraid of things that make him think about death.
- I have King Cold drink ice wine because of his name pun.
- The number of emperors was slightly random. I thought that since 13 is a generally unlucky number (for superstitious fucks), it could be used here as a bit of misdirection. No, it doesn't mean anything. It's not foreshadowing Frieza's own death (unless you want to see it that way).
- Frieza's fear was fun to explore because Frieza is usually such a guarded, calm, powerful individual. Seeing something rattle him and how he deals with it is pivotal to how his character develops in this story.
- The first scene where Frieza sees the dead emperors and learns about mortality from his father sets up Frieza's obsession with never dying. He lamely proclaims that he will cheat death because he is a foolish boy at that point. But it also is the impetus for him going to Namek in his canon appearances to achieve immortality. More than anything, the first section explains why Frieza wanted that immortality.
- Frieza's personal thoughts about him being special were written to not only keep Frieza in-character, but to make him unlikeable. He's the point-of-view and the protagonist, but he's not a good person. He's selfish, vain, paranoid, and delusional.
- I love the bit about King Cold saying there are no gods. That is great personality development for him. He doesn't care about anything really. He just wants to relax and sip his wine. There aren't gods, and when he dies, he'll die. He sees the inevitability of death and thus, he's wise. The fact is, however, that the universe actually does have gods (in both the KV universe and the canon universe), so the joke's on old wise guy.
- The line about Kings making their own fate is me employing a writing technique of George R. R. Martin's. I don't know if he invented it, but it's from his stories that I get the influence from, regardless. He tends to put personal first-person thoughts in italics. I don't always italicize personal thoughts, but I did so here several times.
- "Today is not the day I die" is a Game of Thrones reference. Jojen Reed and Oberyn Martell both say this line in that series. I put it in this story to show that Frieza would say that to himself all the time. It's like instinct that it comes to mind at the beginning of the second section. And its his folly, his stupid, child-like mentality that created the phrase.
- The second section was very fun for me to write. It's Frieza's account of his pain after he was defeated by Goku on Planet Namek, horribly dismembered, and left for dead. The painful thoughts were enjoyable to write because it allows Frieza to be shown at his basest emotional state.
- Frieza slowly forgets who he is as the painful section goes on. By the end of it, he is taking the aliens' word that his name is Frieza and that he's a great lord. His pain has utterly consumed his mind by that point.
- Frieza's remarkable turnaround from wanting immortality to wanting to die is his coming-of-age, so to speak. The first scene is Frieza as a child, a naive little kid who doesn't know how the world works. The second scene is when he's an adult many years later just after Goku's nearly killed him. The pain is unbearable, and death is his only release from it. He is hurting so much that he'd rather die than continue to feel it. That's how miserable he is.
- King Cold rescues Frieza and pulls him from the jaws of death. That's ironic in a way. In the first section, King Cold tells his son that they all must die someday. But in the second section, he's trying to keep Frieza alive where his son should truly have died. So he's not following his own advice. Perhaps that's because of Cold's most redeeming trait - his love for his family.
- At the end of the story, I really needed to show Frieza's powerlessness for the themes to get across (which you can guess at and find from reading Tyrant). At that point, he realizes he's so weak that he can't command anyone. The aliens are his underlings, but they won't kill him like he wants. And then he realizes, in the great climax of the story, that he's too weak and too useless to even die. He doesn't even have that power. So he remembers the old thirteen dead emperors, and it suddenly dawns on him that he's not even as good as them. He can't die like them. He can't have a noble death. He has to live through a miserable existence. Of course, Frieza later becomes Mecha, and he forgets his delirious, suicidal thoughts, but they did indeed exist at some point in Frieza's life.
Tyrant is a very interesting story in my mind. It's a one-shot, but it's a tale of two different stories, really. It reminds me of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. In the first part, Frieza is idealistic and naive, and he learns. He has an energy and arrogance to him. But in the second scene, he's weary, broken, in pain. He's lost all of his idealism and just wants the pain to stop. He's consumed by pain. So we see the quick evolution of Frieza in this story, even if the scenes are literally decades apart. I think this is a great story, personally. I enjoyed watching Frieza transform like he did. The second scene in particular was wonderfully-written (for me as a reader), and I highly enjoyed both the arrogance and the brokenness of the same character featured in a single one-shot. The dialogue in the first section is strong and the bond between Frieza and King Cold is undeniable. If I was to change anything, it might be adding a few more lines of dialogue from Cold and the others at the end. But the story is really great as it is. I enjoyed re-reading it for this commentary and I'm completely satisfied with how it turned out in the end. I'd give Tyrant an S-.
<---- Part 33
Part 35 ---->