Written by Russ Pohl

Behind every great leader stand two greater ones. But how did these two heads come to be who they are now you ask? Well, they were trained from the best there is of course. Tatsu, let’s call the first one, and Ali for the second, used to be mere learners of their former master. From birth, the grand master raised these two younglings for one purpose in life: to fill his immense shoes. The master always tried to keep them both from a very professional distance, never showing full emotion in front of them and never giving true details of the twos’ upcoming. And each day they were trained harder and more rapidly then yesterday, each time becoming more strapping and clever from the previous day’s experience. But late at night after working hard all day long, Tatsu and Ali would sneak into the master’s sleeping chamber, which was made of perfectly placed straw and pillow fabric to please even the richest of nobles. They would stare into the master’s chiseled face for hours unblinking seeing the very face that would mold their life into whatever strikes his own fancy. Whatever task he would ask, they would do, whatever existence he wanted them to live out, they would live, and they could do nothing but take his orders. This reality infuriated the two into near madness, wishing both their ignorant parents never volunteered them into this position only lead on by the fact that they could always have an occupation to survive on and a rough wooden floor to sleep on. In the morning of training, Tatsu always attempted to drain more information on the master’s political power, and the master would always briefly describe how influential he was to the world, but he never could quite grasp all of the glorious control. Then the master would halt his mutterings by assigning more work to his scholars that would then take a majority of the day to labor off. And this would happen morning after morning, night after night, and the lunacy level rose and rose. Until, one night the line between sanity and insanity became far too hazy.

One night, Tatsu and Ali schemed a devious plan for revenge and power. That night, Tatsu, who had built extremely muscular arms after the years of training, lifted the master over his shoulders from his comfy cot and swiped the master’s favorable grand blade from the sword stand next to the bed. While this was going on, Ali spread the word that the master has ran away and left a note of suicide in his bedroom. Finally, Tatsu had reached a point so deep in the woods; no one could hear the upcoming sounds. Tatsu then lay the slumbering one down and unsheathed his majestic steel after saying a few hums of apologies. But before Tatsu could down his blade, the master woke and immediately rolled out of its way. The master then stood to his feet and realized Tatsu’s diabolical method. But the master was not surprised, for he had perceived history would come back to haunt him some day. The master admitted to Tatsu, that he knew his own apprentice would someday conflict him, for that is what he had done to his former master when he was but a student. Yet there was even a deeper secret held within, the master he had assassinated was Tatsu’s very father and so he decided to take Tatsu under his wing after his father’s death. Tatsu then looked down after hearing this tragic news and sighed towards a fallen bird lying dead on the ground. Each both understood what had to be done and so it was done. The master had a burial in the woods next to the fallen bird. Now Tatsu and Ali had filled his shoes. And now they both had the awesome power they wished for. But as the master had warned, they never quite grasped all of it. They were still standing in the shadows of the great leader. And the shadows were to be their home now, shadows of corruption, guilt, and death.