Part 1 - The PrologueEdit
Chapter I - In which the valiant narrator courageously explains the intricate backstoryEdit
It all started, as most of readers will probably guess, a long time ago in a far, far away land. The land went by the unassuming name of Gargathor, a name described by the wisest of the scribes of the famous library of Tynellias as "Nice." According to legend, that was the sound that King Jeoffrey I usually made when he burped. But this legend is disputed.
A much less disputed legend, and much more pertinent to the following tale, is the legend of Infernusius Gevil, a wizard of old, that aeons ago created the ancient magickal rite of kingmaking. As far as it could be ascertained, Gevil tried to conquer the land of Gargathor, demolish every building and make a parking lot. (It must be noted that cars had not been invented yet! These parking lots were to be fitted with magickal time travel terminals so car drivers of the future unable to find a parking space could travel back in time and get to a parking lot.) The counsellors of the time damned Gevil's cunning. Recognizing the financial genius of the idea, but irritated at the prospect of having their houses levelled.
But noble king Jeoffrey IX disliked the idea by principle, in fact, he sternly reprimanded his counsellors for suggesting the idea of adopting Gevil's project, claiming that "The fine peasants of our great nation must have somewhere in which to raise their livestock, grow their crops and make sweet, sweet outdoors love!"
Jeoffrey IX had a reputation for punctuating his invigorating speeches with lewd comments, which made him a much loved king, despite criticism from media watchdog organizations.
Thus a great war started, and Jeoffrey IX rode to the battlefield on his noble red-haired steed, in front of an army of more than two hundred soldiers. Infernusius Gevil, despite his nature-defying sorceror powers had poor social skills, and only managed to recruit two of his retarded friends and a girl that digged his bad boy 'tude. He did try to summon an evil army of creatures of darkness to fight for him, but apparently, as demonic creatures of the lower planes later explained, the finals of the championship were on that day, and no self-respecting army of darkness would lose that.
He had no choice but to surrender, which he did.
In order to get on the good graces of king Jeoffrey IX, Infernusius offered his majesty a deal. With powers that were above and beyond the laws of reality itself, he prophesied that, in the far future, the lineage of Jeoffrey would come to an end, and the kingdom would fall into civil war, and be destroyed.
Infernusius' deal was to create a magickal ritual that could only be completed by he who Destiny would choose as a fit successor for such a great lineage: The Chosen One. The rite of kingmaking. The powerful magicks of the rite, woven into the very threads of Time and Reality. And thus Infernusius created a magickal artefact: a sword. He thrust that sword into a mystical stone, and bound it with powerful magicks.
Only The Chosen One would be able to pull the sword from the stone, and when He did, he would still have to complete the complex and intricate tests of kingmaking to their end, in order to prove himself as the rightful ruler of Gargathor, and stop civil war.
Gevil was about to explain how then the new king would make a "round table" or some other insanity when Jeoffrey IX said "Sure, sure. Go ahead with it, if it'll make you happy. I fought today for a nation where everybody has the right to make overly complicated rituals to test people that will only be born aeons in the future. Including my bitter enemies. I, however, have people to see and places to go. More specifically, I have to meet my wife. In bed. In order to have sex."
Gevil then wrote the terms of his kingmaking ritual in a magickal contract, that he signed with blood; the contract was stashed away safely in the coffers of the archives of the palace, where only low level clerks went, when they were looking for adventure. The contract would be mostly forgotten, until it was needed. Jeoffrey IX was killed later that year, bit by a rabid prostitute.
Part 2 - When adventure callsEdit
Chapter I - In which the witless Herrol is magnificently introducedEdit
Now I shall promote a small historical jump, a thousand years to the future. The ability of promote tricks of this nature is one of the perks of being the narrator of stories like this. Others include the relative safety inherent to my position at the other side of the fourth wall, and ALMIGHTY POWERS! I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, THE BEGINNING AND THE END! Really, if the people whose story I tell even knew I existed, then the awe that they would feel toward my godlike powers and the very fact that I control every aspect of their existence would be staggering.
But unfortunately the fourth wall appears to be sound-proof.
Leaving aside my minor megalomaniac rant, we shall return to the story. Now we are a thousand years into the future of King Jeoffrey IX, in the reign of Jeoffrey 30, that changed his name from Jeoffrey XXX in high school, because he couldn't bear the mockery of other kids.
At the farmlands surrounding the capital of the kingdom, many peasants toiled day and night to produce enough food to satisfy the needs of the aristocrats in the central city. A tiny fraction of these farmlands belonged to a man named Herrol.
Herrol was a tall man, whose muscles, tan, and tenacity were the fruit of the long hours he had to work under the hot sun. He was the son of Vader Goode (a direct descendant of Tom Smearwell) that had fallen in disgrace from his previous occupation and driven to the hard life of peasantry. But Herrol was also knowledgeable in the ways of the lords, he knew more about etiquette than the lords themselves, and he even knew how to read short sentences!
With his ability, he befriended the son of Lord Hugh Richman, the owner of his lands. The son convinced the father that Herrol was a prodigy among men, and maybe a break of one day and a half from the endless agricultural labour in order to spend some time in the company of better men would lead to him realizing the fullest potential of his intellectual capacities.
It is in one of those breaks that our story begins. Herrol was in the drawing room of Lord Richman's large mansion, conversing with the lords about the finals of the championship. About how Sir Bacon had, indeed, an astounding skill with the ball, and incredible kick strength. About how Lady Dragget jump skill could mean the difference between victory and defeat in the overtime. About how the arbiter deserved to spend an eternity in the ninth circle of hell. And about how the standards for cheerleader skirt size had been, unfortunately, falling, these days.
One of the servants came by just as Sir Jackson hit a homerun with his custom-made mithril paddle.
"Uh...Lord Richman? A message just came in from the capital," the servant said, mentally cursing his mother for not having an abortion when she had the chance.
There was a moment of inaction on the part of Lord Richman, as he decided between cutting the servant's head off or feeding him to his collection of very big dogs. All of the mansion's servants knew how much the lord valued the Championship.
However, the servant's life was saved because a blue dragon attacked the stadium where the championship was being held, thereby postponing the match. The wizard beside Lord Richman closed the scrying window, apologizing profusely. The lord dismissed the apologies - it wasn't the wizard fault - but paid only half of the pay-per-view price. The wizard gladly accepted, and left the mansion before the lord changed his mind, as Richman had a reputation for having a collection of really big dogs.
"Speak, servant," Richman said.
"Well...sir, the message says that Jeoffrey 30 died last night. Something about acute apoplectic meningitis. As is common knowledge, he had no heir," it was common knowledge that the late king detested the company of specimens of the opposite sex, and was interested only in males. Male leprechauns.
"Today a ceremony will be held to choose a proper king. As far as I could understand (please pardon my peasant stupidity), this is the first phase of an ancient kingmaking ritual, that must be completed by those that wish to be king. You were formally invited to take part, if you so wish."
Richman slowly passed his fingers through his beard, in deep thought, but only for a second, "No. Last time I did that a badmouthed peasant called Arthur had the audacity of winning over me. I shall not go through such a humiliation again."
"So shall I inform the royal messenger that you politely has declined the invitation?" asked the servant.
But before Richman could answer, Herrol, that intently listened to the interchange until this point, said, "I could go in your place, sire! Indeed, if I were to win the honour of kinghood, the glory would belong to you, and if I failed, it would be due to my innate inferiority as peasant, you having no fault in the matter."
"Hmmm..." this time Richman passed his hands through his beard for full three seconds, "Indeed, with this arrangement, I can't lose! You are abnormally bright for a peasant, Herrol. Normally I'd whip you, but today I am in a foul mood. Do go ahead with your scheme, and if you by any chance become king, my son would like a sinecure job in public affairs."
Herrol nodded, and thanked his lord. He followed the servant out of the mansion, where a carriage was waiting to take Lord Richman to the ceremony site. The servant quickly whispered to the confused royal messenger that awaited outside it. The messenger smiled and helped Herrol into the vehicle.
Chapter II - In which strange facts take placeEdit
The carriage pulled up near a plaza, where a seemingly long line of seemingly aristocratic people awaited their turn to enter the small fenced off square in the middle of it all. Herrol left the carriage and followed the messenger to the end of the line. It was, indeed, a really long line of aristocratic people.
The plaza was really large, and was surrounded by people cheering wildly, their face painted in various colours, waving flags and screaming. Apparently, since the Championship was postponed, they came directly to the plaza, having nothing better to do. At the far end of the plaza stood a tall stage, where viscount DuMal, the late king's chancellor, sat. His handsome goatee was visible even at a distance. Probably he was the judge of the tournament.
The contestants wore the colourful clothing of nobility, some of them had rapiers and swords, denoting their position as knights; others were rather fat, which usually meant they had been made noble out of sheer wealth. Walking randomly around the line were the people with vacant stares from whose mouths small lines of saliva slowly descended to the ground. The ones that had been made noble in the traditional April Fool's day nobilization festival.
Suddenly, all around the plaza, the loud sound of someone clearing his throat could be heard, "Well, thanks for crafting this sound magnifying artefact, royal wizard. Uh...where was I...oh yes. People of Gargathor, today is a day of...what is this word? Oh, er...mourning! really, you should improve your handwriting - for our beloved king has *BLEEEP*...what the *BLEEEP* was that? *BLEEEP*, you *BLEEEP* son of a *BLEEEP* I am not *BLEEEP* speaking to an audience of *BLEEEEP* children! Besides, *BLEEEP* is not a swear-world at all! ...Then turn off the automatic parental censoring you *BLEEEP* *BLEEEP*!
"Hey! Come back here! *BLEEEP*! I'm helpless with those magickal thingmabobs...does anyone know how to program this piece of *BLEEEP*!?" At this point, Herrol located the source of the voice: it was viscount DuMal, performing his opening speechfrom atop a pedestal, to the east-side of the plaza, "Well, at any rate...commemorate? No, no no...it's not that...oh, here! ...But it is also a day of happiness, for today we shall choose a new king! Uh...let's see. This...thing...is based on the ancient ritual of kingmaking created by the famous great ancient magician...Infer...Infernis...Infernisius Givil! I never heard of him...so...uh...we can be sure that it'll choose the most *BLEEEP* kin...come on, *BLEEEP* is a good word! Why the *BLEEEP* is *BLEEEEP* being censored!? *BLEEEP* that! I need to find someone to fix this...uh...er...you may start the tournament now."
After DuMal finished his speech, five seconds of absolute silence passed by in the plaza, except for the incoherent blabber of the retarded. Then, a sound that managed to be devious, terrifying and just plain abnormal at the same time echoed throughout the region, "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!! MWAHAHAHAH!!!"
The origin of the sound could again be tracked to DuMal, laughing hysterically. After a long time, he finally calmed down, and, his embarrassment obvious by the way his goatee was almost imperceptibly softer and darker, tried to explain, "Uh...that's a...a condition I have. I just can't help laughing like this from time to time...it's not because I am planning a devious conspiracy to gather all the power of the kingdom in my hands. Really. Don't even think about such nonsense."
Chapter III - In which recurring villains are masterfully introducedEdit
DuMal's speech was followed by an interminable period of waiting on the competitor's part, as the central square was set up according to the strict guidelines of Infernusius' ritual. From what Herrol could see, in there there was simply a big rock, with a sword sticking out of it. The ritual seemed pretty straightforward, and all this waiting seemed pretty pointless.
Reporters from various SV-stations of the kingdom interviewed the contestants, and some interviews were shown in a large scrying sphere, hovering above the plaza. Sound from the interviews came from both everywhere and nowhere. Sometimes as a whisper to the ear and sometimes as a shout to the knee, as was common with magick.
"So, Sir...Madder Függer? What are your reasons to pursue the title of king?" asked a sunny voice somewhere around Herrol's left eye.
"Well, Karen," a voice yelled from Herrol's left shoe, "Of course I take in consideration all the wealth and power that can be accrued from such a position. All the money I can pillage from my enemies in endless wars where hundreds of thousands of peasants die for my glory. All the taxes I can demand from all the various sorts of people. All the great feasts, balls, and general bacchanalia I can indulge in. All the...power. All the great many atrocities I can commit in an endless iron-fisted rule over all that lives! All the privilege! All the glories I can ever wish for! And all...the precious...precious, precious... precious...ius primae noctis. So precious..."
"Anyway," a voice whispered within Herrol's head, "My point is that I think I probably could help the people of this kingdom somehow by being king. And that is, of course, the first thing in my mind when I take the sword outta the stone."
The square was finally opened. And the contestants started entering. Invariably, they would try their best to take the sword out of the stone for a few minutes, give up, and let the next one in. Some would take longer, others would be done with the charade faster. Still, Herrol was the last in the line.
"And you Sir Sandío...Mattador?" said a voice somewhere beyond Herrol's left shoulder.
"Me? Well, you know, the usual," answered a whisper that kept rotating around Herrol's head, "I want to invest heavily in the private sector, striving to maintain and improve the sadly declining standards of public service by relying on the greater innovativeness and efficiency of that important sector of our economy. Indeed, I still intend to keep the essential profitless services running fully under governmental auspices, but where our kingdom's enterprising individuals can do a better job, I say we let them. Of course, I fully intend to also, whenever I declare someone a knight, say 'I declare you Sir Headless' and then I'll cut his head off, since I really like killing."
Some of the more refined of the contestants usually started gracefully and ritually pulling the sword from the stone with a single hand. When it didn't work, they tried to gracefully take it out with both hands. When that didn't work, they usually just did whatever they could. The sword never budged, no matter how clearly they were using a lot of force.
"Sir Doid Varido? Sir Doid Varido, is it you? How do you feel about this whole contest?" said an echoing voice from beyond the clouds.
"I like flowers, but they don't bite quite as they used to," said a yell at Herrol's ear, "In fact, I'd say the Abominable Snowman can only reasonably have come from Mars, but that would be unlikely. The point is, I think that women
don't deserve the same rights as men, and I promise, when I'm king, to give women men a ruler or two. But I'm not making any promises. Nor babies. Babies make me. Babies make me. Make me, baby? Yes. Dogs. Yes. Yes. Also, people should look at the sun and go 'lalalalalalaragaraumb' more. I'll make a law. Or two. But then wouldn't they just be purple? I think so. No. Yes."
Coincidentally, I have recently come across documents showing that, if people looked at the sun and went "lalalalalalaragaraumb", then it would trigger ancient enchantments that'd give eternal happiness and peace for all. But they were dispelled some time ago. Oh, well. Too bad he didn't win, I guess.
Chapter IV - In which complications ariseEdit
Finally, when the sun was setting beyond the Shining Mountains, Herrol's turn came. All the other contestants had had their turn, and all the other contestants had given up and left the plaza in the shame of defeat. Still, Herrol persevered, because he had a resolve hardened beyond that of the common mortal men. And because he wasn't really paying attention to his surroundings, enraptured in visions of his bucolic past and his majestical future.
He approached the central square in a strong, determined pace. In his eyes the fire of the ages, in his arms and legs the inevitability of Destiny. He was in his entirety a thing of legend, and all those that landed their eyes on him could see the greatness that he was fated to accomplish.
"Sir, may I see your buttocks?" asked one of the guards posted at the entrance of the square. The one with the eye-patch.
"Ah, thank the Gods. The other contestants were so awkward about, it felt almost wrong to ask them to show their buttocks," said the guard without the eye-patch.
"Eh. I suppose you were asked to perform some sort of butt-related security test," Herrol answered, lowering his trousers, "I understand the necessity of searching every nook and cranny for security hazards."
"Yeah, well, the chancellor told us to check if anyone had magickal glyphs or artefacts with them. Also, to see if anyone had...what do we have here?"
"What?" asked Herrol.
"Is that a bunny-shaped birth sign on your arse? We were told to look for one those. Sorry, sir, but you cannot go in. Chancellor's orders," the eye-patch guard said, suddenly less friendly.
"You are making a mistake, my good man. This is clearly a hare, rather than a rabbit."
"Oh, don't be facetious, sir, there's no difference between the two. Now git!"
"Of course there is! Look, the shape of the ears, the nose, the paws. The difference is palpable!"
"...Hmmm...I don't know. I mean, I'm told there's a difference but..."
"Sir, if I may chime in," said the guard without the eye-patch, "You have a very interesting pair of buttocks."
"Wha...well..." Herrol pulled his pants back up and left the position he was in, "Uh...thanks. May I go on?"
"Uh...sure, sure," said the guard with the eye-patch, "Go on... I am incredibly sorry, sir."
As Herrol entered the square, he overheard the guards arguing:
"Rodrick, for the Gods' sake! This is the tenth time this day! No excuses! I'm telling the Head of the guard on you."
Chapter V - In which the sword is suspensefully taken out of the rockEdit
Slowly, Herrol walked toward the large rock, squarely in the middle of the square. Very slowly. I can't say with certainty if he was trying to be deliberately suspenseful (which I doubt for reasons that shall remain clear along the story) or if he was hesitating.
All that can be said with certainty is that the rock was grey. Most probably quartzite. Though some sources believe it was basalt. It had a few lumps here and there, but was mostly regular, and the sword was clearly stuck in it in such a manner that only with magickal aid, and the favour of Fate could one manage to take it for himself. No mortal strength would a factor in this endeavour.
But Herrol, if he knew or not, had just the kind of aid from the immortals in the higher planes that one would require to accomplish just that feat. He had within him the fire of the Gods and the wild magicks of the universe were pushing him along his righteous path.
He gazed upon the sword intently, his eyes two deep pools of blue, within them the favour of all the spirits and the fire of the Ages. Wait, I think I used that figure before. Yes, there it is. Please, forgive me, readers.
The hilt of the sword was made of the purest silver, and encrusted with the most precious of all the gems found within the kingdom. It had an intricate design of a dragon chasing a dog etched on one side of the hilt, and the most holiest symbol of Samarkund on the other. It was the most beautiful thing Herrol's peasant eyes ever seen.
And as his hands touched it, it was the most pleasing sensation his peasant skin ever felt. He gripped the sword with both hands, strongly, and prepared himself to make the pull of his life. All his peasant hopes and peasant dreams deposited in this single moment. All his ambitions and future glories rested on his capability to take the blade out of the stone.
He prepared to howl in fury and pull the hilt as he never pulled anything before. But before he decided to give a little pull, check how hard the weapon was lodged into the rock.
He lightly pulled it. It came off.
Chapter VI - In which the Call is resistedEdit
To the initial shock of how easy it was to do it, the shock of howls and cheers from the audience was added. And to that, the shock of when the sword started talking:
"Ah! Fresh air at last! Not that I breathe, mind you, but just the wind on my edge feels pretty good. Also, sunlight. I used to take that for granted. When they said they were gonna put me in the rock I was like 'pshh, big deal, who needs sunlight? Everybody but metal-cast magickal tools. And I am one.' Turns out lack of sunlight really sucks... At least it was pretty dry back in the rock. So, you the protagonist?"
Herrol was, in fact, so shocked, that he didn't say anything.
"Suppose so. Man, I expected at least armour. Not necessarily shining full-plate, mind you, but at least chain-mail would be pretty good. You got a shield, at least, right? If not, you probably should buy one. Those dragons have a reputation for burning unarmoured flesh. And don't get me started on what the giants can do with a person without a shield. Oh, whatever. Anyway, I talk. Yes. And I'm sword. Yes. Incredible, innit? To be fair, I have no idea where the voice comes out of either. So, what's your name?"
Herrol first noticed that the engraving of the dragon chasing a dog extended into the dog chasing a cat chasing a rat all the way to the end of the blade. Then he calmed down a little and answered, "He...Herro...l".
"Ah. Will do. Will do nicely. I'm not that into symbolic naming myself, but some people like it. Call me just Magick Talking Sword. Or MTS. MTS is better 'cause we can't really hope the future readers of our chronicle to refer to me by such a big name. We gotta always pay attention to that, no sense having an adventure if it doesn't get written down. Personally, I think it will be an episodic novella, but I can see it becoming a single big piece. We gotta think of all the possibilities."
Herrol was becoming increasingly stunned, but managed to utter a response, "Uh...Mathias, is it? Well, Mr. Mathias, would you be so kind as to...er...declare me king? I really wanted to get started."
"What, no, not Mathias. MTS. On second thought, whatever. Anyway, I can't just declare you king. No, first you gotta accomplish a series of loosely related quests. Don't blame me, I'm just the messenger. Infernusius Gevil is the man responsible. But if you really are meant to become the king, it shouldn't be that hard. More importantly, it makes for a better story."
"Oh, well," Herrol calmed down quite a bit, "Sure. Sure. Let's go."
"What, no no no!" Mathias voice was suddenly much less cheery, "Don't you know even the basics of good literature? I'm your call. You gotta resist the call."
"Why? I don't see the point. I mean, I want to be king."
"Yeah, of course. But this is just how it works...hmmm...look, these are dangerous quests, and there's no guarantee of success. It's very probable that you will die. Horribly. And you might be tortured extensively before you die. Besides, those are hard quests, they'll demand a lot of effort, and people everywhere will fight to stop you, and you'll have to overcome great odds. Impossible odds."
"Oh," Herrol said, sad, "I guess I won't do it then. Seems pretty hard, and the chances of success are next to nil."
"Yes! Yes! That's how it goes!"
Herrol dropped the sword to the ground and started walking away.
"Wait! Wait! Come back here, you moron!"
"But you said..."
The sword, somehow, sighed, "Yes, normally those quests would be really hard. But you are the chosen one, and it's going to be easy for you. You also have me, a magickal helper and a supernatural tool of great power. All in one. I'll be of great help for you. A great help that you certainly will need, if this is any indication of your capabilities. Now pick me up."
Chapter VII - In which our heroes courageously make small-talkEdit
"Okay, maybe we started with the wrong foot. Or, in my case, some other sort of appendage. This is fine. It creates conflict. Conflict is fine. In fact, I'd say it's desirable. I desire conflict."
"Oh. Er...I don't want to fight," Herrol said, non-committally.
"No no no. Don't worry, it's not a permanent conflict, but we have to start hating each other so that later we can be friends, thus creating character development. It's important to have character development if we want anything lengthier than a children's book."
"Can't we just be mutually respecting colleagues?" Herrol offered, even more non-committally.
"Mutually respecting colleagues isn't emotionally charged enough. Ideally, we would be lovers, but you are a presumably heterosexual man, and I am a sword. It just wouldn't work out...anyway, we need to start working our angles. First we need to find out if this is a a tragedy or a comedy."
"Does it need to be one of the two?"
"Of course not, those are the basics, but there's also adventure, romance, horror, dramedy, romance comedy, zombie romance comedy, etcetera, etcetera. Did your parents die? When and how?""
"Well, mum died when I was three from acute diarrhoea. Dad died when I was eight from chronic diarrhoea," Herrol said, for a moment lost in the sad memories.
"Dead parents is as good a background as any. We should spare the readers the details though. Any nemesis? Was your hometown ever wiped out and/or all of its people killed?"
"Oh well, do you have any motivation for this quest? At all?"
"I wanna be king."
"Of course. Why?"
"Kings have it good."
"Kings have linen clothing. I like linen clothing. And money. And then I wouldn't have to work on the fields so hard."
"Well, it seems we are deep into comedy territory here. And you gotta be one of the shallowest and least interesting protagonists I've ever seen. Don't worry, this can still work. The sort of tale we're weaving here doesn't need a very complex main character to work with. In fact, your sort of protagonist might work for our advantage. We might market the everyman angle. All the peasants of the kingdom will see themselves in your role and buy whatever we try to sell them about you. Of course, most peasants can't read. But I have these revolutionary ideas for using Scrying Spheres to transmit images and sounds to the masses. This way they can pay us even without reading."
"You mean SV? Er...Scry-Vision?" Herrol offered.
"You have those already?", the sword's voice was clearly disappointed, "Uh...How long have I been in the rock?"
"I dunno," Herrol shrugged, "A thousand years, I think."
"Oh." a few moments later, the sword added, "So, are we buying that shield?"
Chapter VIII - In which our valiant heroes stop for shoppingEdit
The Jorgen & Hinkel's Adventurer's Apparel was a little out-of-the-way shop. Located at the end of a long winding alleyway, by the left side of the common market, it was a very narrow and very long building, with a simple, wooden, whitewashed façade. A large iron door and a small window, that was nothing more than a hole in the left side of the outer wall, were all that it had that it had that could be reasonably called ornaments.
They entered the shop, ringing the bell. The manager welcomed them in.
She was a rather rotund woman somewhere between her early thirties and late nineties. Dressed in a fashionable long sleeved purple dress, she likely intended to pass a good impression. In that case there were some details that needed to be worked out. For instance, how many stains were acceptable, and just how ragged her clothes should be.
"Well, Mathias...you see, he's my sword...Well, Mathias wanted me to...buy a shield to fight dragons."
The manager looked at Herrol. Very intently. With a face somewhere between puzzlement and panic at this madman that just entered her store.
"Your sword, which talks, told you to come here and buy a shield to fight dragons," she repeated back at him.
"Yes. When you say it like that it sounds crazy, I know. But...er...Say something Mathias."
She held her hands up, and sighed. He was a harmless madman. Quickly and efficiently she started enquiring as to the nature of his purchase, "A shield. What is the price-range we are looking for?"
"Cheap. Very cheap. But it should work on dragons and...er...giants and...hmmm is there anything else, Mathias?" Herrol tried again, unsuccessfully.
"A cheap shield that can withstand dragon-fire? I'm sorry, but that's...do you have membership in the guild? It's completely free, and I can throw a decent shield in for only...how much you got there?"
"I got ten copper coins, but if you give me some time I can get you a goat to close the deal."
"The coins will do fine. Come here, the adventurer's guild always welcomes new members," she motioned him to follow her in a small room in the back of the store. It was dark. She lit a small candle and grabbed a feather, sat on the chair to the other side of a cheap wooden desk, spat in a small ink-flask and inserted the feather in it, twisting it around a bit. She then gave him the pen and picked up a piece of parchment from one of the desk's drawers.
"Just sign here. And here. There!" She said picking up the parchment and storing it in another drawer, "Congratulations in joining the adventurer's guild. Iamlegallyobligedtotellyouthathalfofyourearningsshallgototheguild'scoffersbutyouhavetherighttoleavetheguildatanytimeyouchoose."
"Exactly," she said, smiling, "And there are great benefits! There are pamphlets by the store front if you want to get familiar with the guild, the benefits, and our mission. Now, about that shield..."
Herrol left the store the proud owner of a BlockBarrier Pro, the shield for the distinguished gentleman. The distinguished dragon-killing gentleman, according to the manager. It was made of wood. But the manager said it was magickal wood. For ten copper coins, it wasn't a bad deal. And he also got into the guild. According to the pamphlet there were many benefits. He was about to reading exactly what those were when he heard laughter.
"Hahahahahahahahaha! Oh man! Oh man! That was funny. The look on her face! And your face! Oh man," the sword said, "Heh. Sorry man, sorry. I'm really sorry, you know? But that woman would recognize my voice. Can't believe Ms. Jorgen is still alive, guess the ol' eternal youth potion did work. Well, except for the youth. Still better than everything else she ever sold me though. Couldn't be recognized, she probably would still hold a grudge from that one time. Oh yeah. It wasn't pretty."
Chapter IX - In which the secretive council of the shadows conveneEdit
In an undisclosed location, a secretive council of sinister figures met around a scrying sphere. In the scrying sphere, they could see Herrol walking through the city streets, doing whatever it is that he wanted to do before starting his adventure. After some moments of silence, one of the figures, a female, spoke from the shadows.
"I thought you made sure the Chosen One wouldn't get the sword," she said, dryly.
From the shadows, another voice came, preceded by a small whimper, "Well, I...I told the guards to not let He Who Bears the Mark pass. I was very specific on the nature of the mark, even."
A third voice sharply added, in an aggressive tone, "HAH! Specific? And what did ya base all yer specificness on, if a ignorant soul such as mahself might ask, pardner? We only haves vague information on that there hare."
"Actually, a rabbit."
"It's debatable," pointed out the female voice.
"It's not debatable, there's a clear difference on the paws, the ears. They are two completely different animals."
"The difference is immaterial. At any rate, no use dwelling on that. We need to worry about the future, not the past. For the past is already long gone. Only by looking through the mists of that which shall yet come to pass can a true course of action be taken."
"Ah agrees. Whah, Ah even spent the whole of yesterday on makings me a plan on how to deals with them peasant interlopers. Ah might even be generous and let you rustlers on this plan of mine, if any of y'all should find it agreeable to spends some of our time poring over it."
"Oh no. No. We agreed to act independently. This meeting is only to exchange information, possibly to exchange tools. Not plans. To share plans is to share possible rewards, which none of us want, and to share the blame, should our little conspiracy be found out."
"Agreed. But the work of ages stands to be undone soon if we allow this - as our friend says - interloper to meddle. I have crafted all the events that have come to pass, and like a well-crafted spell, their consequences are coming to pass as well. As long as this peasant does not interfere, we shall all walk away more powerful and/or wealthy than before. I agree with independent action."
"Well, where Ah comes from there ain't no question that only them damn bounty hunters would eveh risk independent action. Smart men ride in posses. But Ah ain't about to give out stars to city folk, so Ah see where you come from with this no dividin' rewards talk."
"So I suppose that out of the formless matter of this meeting, we have taken the artefact of a consensus. At least for now we shall continue to act independently. But we shall all do our best to stop the peasant from achieving his goals. We know what those goals are, and we can deduce the order that he shall follow them. So it shouldn't be hard."
"Yes. Of course. We all know his goals. Why, I could list all his goals right now out of the top of my head."
"That's fer sure. These ain't a bunch of thought-out goals if Ah ever saw none, but they sure shouldn't be hard to impossibilitate him from gettin'."
"Indeed. Truly amazing goals. I doubt he would accomplish them, even if we weren't about to do our best to stop him. But alas, we will."
"MWAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAH!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAH! Mwahahaha...hahahah. Eh...hahahah. Uh...haha...I'm reallly...mwahahahaha...sorry," one of the anonymous voices in the shadow said. Contrite.
"You should really see a doctor about that compulsive laughing of yours."
Chapter X - In which our heroes find danger!Edit
"...show your love for your mundane life, but at the same time, the necessity and the desirability of leaving such a mundane life. You show, further, your intent in preserving the status quo, but the inevitability of change, when you are forced by circumstances. So, again, do you now understand the necessity of resisting the call but ultimately accepting it?" the sword asked.
"You made your point. Repeatedly. Still, I think it's artificial to want me to pretend to resist something I want. In fact, I'd say it's unrealistic. Most people in my position would jump at the chance for adventure. At least until adventure bit them in the arse. Which, so far, hasn't happened," Herrol pointed out.
"Yes. Yes. But for an adventurer, to yearn for the mundane life is praxis. In fact, I can count on my non-existent fingers the chronicles I read where the hero didn't want to have the simple life of a peasant. I understand that you want to be original, but too much originality will kill any potential money-maker."
"I have the life of a peasant. It's not a nice life. I feel that desire for the peasant life comes from writers that never lived the peasant life. Furthermore..."
A yell came from the nearby alleyway, "Stop right there peasant!" Sir Madder Függer walked out of the alleyway, his left hand holding his sword in the scabbard, and his shining plate armour making it hard to look directly at him, but it was his glorious blond moustache that truly chilled Herrol's spine, "Hand me the sword and no one gets hurt. The opposite will happen if you do not hand me the sword."
After a few moments of silence, Sir Függer added, wagging his right finger in Herrol's direction, "By which I mean you will be hurt. Possibly killed. I hope the point is clear."
Herrol yelled, held the sword in front of him, "Kill him! Kill him!"
"Calm down, you moron. You have to swing me on him for me to do the killing. Don't worry, I'm magickal," the sword noted.
"You are!?" Herrol screamed back, genuinely surprised.
"Of course! I can talk, can't I? Not only that, but I can cut better than the sharpest mithril sword, I'm lighter than a wooden sword of comparable size, and perhaps more importantly, I shine in an eerie orange hue when I'm used in battle. Believe me, it's an interesting effect. We should probably make it clear for the writer of the chronicle that I'm glowing orange whenever you valiantly strike at the enemy. Which, if I might suggest, should be soon. Now swing me."
Herrol did, and the sword did glow orange. Sir Függer was impressed, and removed his own blade from the scabbard, moving in for the kill.
"Swing me at him," the sword offered.
Chapter XI - In which our heroes intelligently flee from dangerEdit
"Yes! Good! Fleeing will drive the point home to the readers that the situation is desperate, that he is the superior man, and possibly superior fencer. Now you just gotta look into yourself and find the courage that you didn't know you had, turn around, and face the threat. It's gonna be a powerful and emotional moment, and it's probable that you will come out of it alive," the sword explained.
Herrol kept running through the winding streets of the city. He didn't look back, but if he did, he would notice that Sir Függer's armour slowed him down, and he wasn't even close. The people of the city were mildly annoyed at the crazy man running around the place with the talking sword, but apart from that, paid him no mind.
"You still can...oh, I see what you're doing. Yes, if you flee from him now we'll have a pretty great revenge subplot to work on later. He seems to be a pretty meh villain, but revenge might make things more interesting. We probably will be able to stick a training sequence somewhere. Good job. Nice to see you're paying attention to this sort of thing for a change... I'll stop talking to make your flight more moody."
A few droplets of water fell from the sky, and Herrol ran. He ran without looking back, his humiliating defeat weighing on his shoulders. Sir Madder Függer was a noble, and as every noble, he had more training-in-arms than a peasant could ever hope to have. So Herrol ran.
The rain strengthened, and Herrol ran. The paved streets gradually gave way to narrow earth paths, as the rich neighbourhoods gave way to the small and spaced-away homes of the poor. In Herrol's mind he replayed the last moments, before his survival instincts took over, but in Herrol's mind, he won. He won over the knight, with his magickal sword... But that didn't actually happen. Instead Herrol ran.
The rain was forming puddles, many of which Herrol ran over, desperately. In many ways, he thought, this encounter was good. After taking the sword, he had hesitated on leaving the city into the vast unknown, looking for adventure. But now, with an enemy behind him, he had little choice. He would leave the city, the only place in the world he knew, and flee. Flee into adventure.
Herrol wiped his forehead of the raindrops. And ran.
Chapter XII - In which our heroes talk as they travelEdit
"...not having this conversation again. I understand you are knowledgeable in the subject, but I stand by what I think is right. That is, I had all the trouble to take you out the stone to become king, I wouldn't resist 'The Call'" Herrol said, making finger-quotes.
"Hmmm...maybe you are right. It would be out of character, and we want to keep the motivations consistent. Still, I feel that was a big gamble, and we should keep the narrative more or less traditional from now on. The genre has a lot of tropes, if we follow most of them, it should be alright," the sword agreed.
"...Say, Mathias, how did you gain such knowledge?"
"Well, the rock I was in is pretty close to the city's fine arts school. One of the professors of comparative literature thought that giving classes in the outdoors was good for the students. And he thought the nearby plaza was outdoorsy enough, I suppose. Not only that, but back before I was a sword, I used to adventure a bit. There was a lot of books written about me. I wouldn't be surprised if none lasted, since that was a thousand years ago, but..."
"What you mean, 'before you were a sword'" Herrol interrupted.
"I... don't want to talk about it now," the sword said, pain in its voice.
"Please! I really wanna know," Herrol insisted.
"Let it slide man! Sheesh! This is foreshadowing. I'll pick up the subject again when I feel the emotional effect will be the greatest. Let's talk about something else."
"Sure," Herrol sighed, "What is the first thing I got to do to be king?"
"Well, the easiest one, I think, is near Humba, the Free City."
"Ah, I know where Humba is. It isn't a free city. At least not anymore. After the Gyambi killed all its population in a great raid, it became a tourist spot. I heard they got nice statues," Herrol pointed out.
"Well, hopefully we won't need to enter the city. You just need to kill a giant boar in the nearby woods."
"Uh..." Herrol hesitated, "a giant boar?"
Chapter XIII - In which the giant boar is explainedEdit
Two thousand years ago, the king of the Free City defied the Gods. The Gods said one day that jalapeños tasted really bad, and the king of Humba told them that that was only their opinion.
As punishment for his great crime, the Gods sent down a plague upon his people. Many perished from the terrible disease. Among the dead were some of the king's most trusted advisers. But the king shut down his palace, and thus he and his family were kept safe of the deadly illness.
The Gods were even more angered for that, and when the king threw a great feast to celebrate the end of the plague, his eldest son ate a magickal boar that Kilgara, the foolhardinator, disguised as a hunter, contributed to the feast. The prince ate the entire boar, by himself, compulsively.
The heir to the throne, then, right in front of the eyes of the other guests, slowly transformed into a boar. And savagely destroyed the feast, killing many people, and growing until it became giant. For a boar. But that was still pretty big. The giant black boar of Humba then escaped into the nearby woods, where it lived ever since.
I won't mention here the well-known tale of when the black boar copulated with the king's wife, leading to the creation of the Humbaboaur, a man with the head of a boar that was imprisoned in a labyrinth below the king's great palace, later killed by Jureus of Kathens, with the help of one of the surviving royal princesses. Because I think this tale is ridiculous.
Chapter XIV - In which our heroes fight the boar to the deathEdit
"Okay, this should be easy. Let's go over the plan one more time," the sword whispered.
They were hidden in a bush, downwind, waiting. After a long time, finally the boar was closing in on the bait. They set a trap, a person-shaped bunch of vines with a big steak in it was going to attract the boar under a box, with a stick attached. The box would fall on the boar when it was below it and Herrol pulled a string. That plan was abandoned when the boar proved too big for the box they had, so they were going to resort to plan B.
"I run toward it and stab it with you," Herrol whispered back, afraid.
"Good. On the count of three. One."
The boar made a loud boar-sound. Loud enough that many nearby birds flew away, doing the birdly equivalent of a panicked scream. He was angry. And big.
The boar's eyes were red, a trickle of yellowish green goo trickled down from his nose, and saliva trickled from his mouth. One of his tusks was broken. He was black. And very big.
"Three!" the sword yelled, the boar looked at where the sound came.
Herrol yelled while he charged the savage beast. For a second, he smiled at the thought that the yelling was making the boar afraid. Then he realized the yelling was making the boar mad. And stopped. The sword started yelling in his stead.
When he got close enough, the boar tried to hit him with the non-broken tusk. It didn't work. Herrol managed to evade, but doing that he lost the chance to stab the head. Instead, he jumped and thrust his sword deeply on the animal's back.
"GREAT! GREAT! You should probably not have stopped the warcry, but don't worry. Everything is going good. Since this is your first encounter with a monster, a little hesitation is expected, and will make the reader identify," the sword tranquillized Herrol.
"What do I do now!?" he screamed at the top of his lungs, as the beast thrashed around.
"The monster is bleeding heavily. We just wait a little bit and it should die. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!" the sword yelled back.
Six hours later, the boar was still thrashing.
"...left the city, you were leaving behind known ground, and crossing the threshold into a land of unknown and adventure. Leaving behind known ground is a symbolical death, and reaching into unknown adventure land is a symbolical rebirth. Thus..."
"The boar isn't dead yet! It's been at least half a day," Herrol interrupted, shouting.
"Well, twist me around or something. It should make it bleed more. At any rate, it's bleeding, it won't live forever. And you are in a blind spot. The boar can't kill you if you keep holding and keep me in it. Now, where was I?" the sword explained.
A day later, the boar wasn't dead yet, and repeatedly ran into a tree, trying to make Herrol fall down.
"I'm getting kinda hungry," he said.
"Well, if you're reeeaaally hungry, amongst my magickal powers is the ability to provide sustenance," the sword said.
"Why didn't you say it before? Gimme it!"
"Well...this is kinda weird. You have to suck on my hilt, and it will...er, for the lack of a better word, it will 'sweat' a milk-like substance. I've been told it's tasty, but..."
"Yeah, I knew you'd say that," the sword said, apologetically.
Another day passed, the boar was not moving much.
"...is important. I mean, as a protagonist, paths should open to you. Things that normal men would have difficulty doing, you should be capable to accomplish easily. But preferably, you should accomplish it in an entertaining manner, if we expect anyone to read the story. Oh, look, the boar is slowing down. I think it's going to die. Finally. I was getting kinda bored too."
The boar fell down, breathing heavily, slowly fading.
"That went well. Now pick me up and let's go for a shower," nothing happened, "Herrol? Oh, don't pass out now!", no one answered, "Wait, on second thought, passing out can be good. It can symbolize your psychical and physical exhaustion after this great struggle with a legendary beast. Good. Good," no reaction, "Yeah. Pretty good. Only remember to pick me up when you're done. Just try to hurry. I'm bored being stuck to things for extended periods of time."
"But I can wait."
On to part two of this riveting tale!