Note: The following story was published in the October 2005 Everquest Newsletter.
Huge doors crashed open, spilling a river of sunlight across the stone floor. The Warlord of Halas strode into his hall with blood on his hands and death in his eyes. He carried his massive battle axe, Mountaincleaver, in one huge hand and his half-rhino skull helm in the other. He was a terror to behold, even to his closest servants and advisers. To his enemies he was nothing, not anymore. He had killed them all.
The Warlord stripped his bloody cloak and threw it to the floor A nervous attendant skittered behind collecting the fur cloak up in his thin arms. The Warlord tore away the leather straps at his side and his massive steel breastplate crashed to the stone floor. Firelight glistened off of his thick muscled chest and his concubines blushed and peeked from behind curtains of silk and satin. The Warlord cared not of his nakedness or of the giggles of his women. He fell into his large throne and rested his axe on the throne's wide arm. His head fell into the stained palm of his hand and trouble lined his brow. Silence filled the hall until the Warlords low voice broke it.
"What will I become when death finds me?" The dark voice and its dark words echoed low across the large hall. "Who will remember what I have done?"
"Bards will sing songs of your victory. Your children will pay homage to you each morning." The attendant, having dragged the warlords fallen cloak and armor away, returned to the Warlord's side. He spoke softly with his head down, aware, as he had been most of his life, that a single misspoken word would end his life.
"Tell me of my father's death." The warlord, his head still resting on his hand, glared at his attendant through his fingers.
"He fought back the orc hoards that threatened Halas and hewed down three ice-giant lords before a rogue spear stole him from us." The attendant looked to the sky as he had been taught to by his predecessor, a noble man who lost his life when he snickered at the Warlord's bed-hair one morning.
"He was drunk! He failed to lie with any of his slave girls and so he went for a drunken ride on his war-mammoth. He fell and his own mount trampled him to death!" The Warlord rose out of his throne with his hands balled into fists. Red spots filled his shaven cheeks and his blood-caked blond hair fell in front of his eyes. The fury of the Warlord was clear to all in the large hall and they all feared for their lives. "No one remembers but me and when I die, no one will remember either of us. Stories will become distorted and lose nearly all truth. Nothing that happened will matter. I will die. I will rot. It will be as though I have never been." The warlord fell back into his huge throne and fell silent.
"I may have an answer, m'lord." A tall figure stepped from the shadows. The Warlord narrowed his eyes, taking in the stranger's appearance. The stranger wore white robes of silk and covered his tall head with a hood. Three small red circles marked his ebony skin below his left eye. The Warlord, very conscious of where his axe sat on his throne, let the man speak. Should the stranger displease him, the Warlord would cleave him in two and wash the floor in his blood.
"My name is Oric and I travel from across the seas to the west." Oric opened a leather-skinned satchel. "I have two gifts for you. One of these grants you immortality." Oric drew two rectangular bundles of parchment leaves bound and wrapped in wood covered with leather. One had a beautiful golden dragon embossed on the cover. The other was blank.
"What are they?" The Warlord's voice sounded tired and impatient. The Warlord's attendant, aware of the typical conclusion of that voice, stepped back and turned the blood-stained cloak he carried to protect him from the shower of blood that would soon rain across the hall. The western traveler appeared not to notice the disdain in the Warlord's voice or did not appear to care.
"They are called 'books', m'lord. They record lives long past. They tell tales of adventure hundreds of years old." Oric opened the dragon-marked book and displayed two pages covered with strange black symbols.
"Is it a spell? I have no use for magic." The Warlord moved his hand from his brow to the handle of his axe.
"In a way. It releases a magic within our own minds." Oric turned the book towards himself. "This one tells the story of a boy. His family cast him out in the wilderness to die. A rabid bear comes across the starving child but the boy, angry and hungry, stabs the bear through the eye with a stick sharpened on rock. Years later, wearing the bear's skull as a helm, the boy, now a powerful hunter, returns to his tribe and seeks his revenge.
"This book tells all of the hunter's stories. The revenge he took, the battles he fought, the lands he conquered; they are all here." Oric held up the book in the palm of his hand like an ancient religious relic. "This book," he opened and held up the other book, "is for you."
The Warlord stared hard at Oric for a long time. When he spoke, his voice startled everyone in the room.
"Tell me more of this boy."
The Warlord ordered his servant to pull a chair up for the strange traveler from the west and throughout the night the man, Oric, told the Warlord of the boy who grew to rule. Throughout the night and into the following day, the Warlord sat and listened to the tale, leaning forward and eyes unblinking. One of the bolder of the slave girls came to the Warlord late into the night and kissed his hand with soft lips. He dismissed her violently. She skittered back behind the silk curtains of the harem with tears leaving rivers of white skin through her painted cheeks. No one disturbed them the rest of the night.
Sunlight streamed into the hall from the high open windows of the hall. The massive fire, roaring high when the Warlord returned from battle now glowed in embers of orange and gray. At noon, Oric spoke the last words of the tale. He closed the book with a thud that echoed throughout the hall and made even the Warlord blink in surprise. Another dangerous silence filled the hall.
"I lived another's life this night. I saw what he saw. I felt what he felt." The warlord sat back hard in his throne, his eyes wide.
"And others can live yours," spoke Oric.
A jolt of fear and anger flooded through the Warlord. Others could live his life? But it was his! No one could take it from him. No one should! His hand moved back to the handle of his axe where it sat through the night. Then he remembered the tale of the boy; the boy cast out from his own village who returned home a powerful warrior and ruler. The Warlord remembered cleaving down two ice giants in the previous day's battle. He remembered the feel of his axe as it crushed the tendons behind their knees. He remembered the rush of victory when he hewed down the Snow Orc General and sealed dominance for his kingdom. This man in front of him could capture that life. His life could be lived for centuries.
He would tell this man his story and the man, Oric, would scribe it into that book. When he was finished, the Warlord would cast aside his kingdom and leave it to his two sons to fight over. He would travel west with Oric where he would spend the rest of his days living hundreds of other lives in the libraries of Odus. He would die a far richer man than he ever dreamed.
The Warlord looked at Oric with a powerful gaze.
"Write my tale. Capture what I have done so others will see what I have seen. Begin the tale from the moment you and I met, for it was that day that I found my greatest treasure and that day that I began my Legacy."
Oric smiled, drew out a thin hollow reed and a bottle of thick black ink. He dipped the reed into the ink and began carefully scribing symbols onto the ivory page of the empty book. It began:
"Huge doors crashed open, spilling a river of sunlight across the stone floor. The Warlord of Halas strode into his hall with blood on his hands and death in his eyes."
27 October 2004