Gather ‘round my friends, and allow me to tell you the tale of a man who was once beloved by all who met him, and how he fell from this image of godliness to become the most despised man in the entire history of the world. His name was Plageiorath, son of Omarrtan the Wise, from the ancient city of Florhaust, just west of the town of Magladesh. During his childhood, he had never had any trouble finding friends, and was actually quite the charmer, yet he did not use this skill for evil, but rather for the good of others. His best friend, whom he cared for above all others though, was Mallorkan. Mallorkan was one of the worst troublemakers in the entire city, however, and would often try to get Plageiorath to follow him into situations that would find them more than their fair share of trouble.
No matter how hard Mallorkan tried to get Plageiorath to agree and follow him, Plageiorath would always find that it was too dangerous of a risk to help Mallorkan with any of the tasks that may get them into some form of trouble. Some said that it was because he was wise from a very young age, which is a very special trait indeed, and others say that he was just fearful of what could happen if he followed Mallorkan into these situations, but I believe it was a bit of both. When they were thirteen years of age, they both finally succumbed to their want of exploration and thrill, but this time it would be much different than what they had both originally planned. Instead of the usual small or regular dangers, this exploration would pose an undeniably dangerous threat, though neither Plageiorath nor Mallorkan could know the gravity of the trouble that they would soon cause, not only for themselves, but also for their entire city. Before we can move on with their story, however, we must first understand why the events to come will happen the way that they do.
Their lands and the ones around them going all the way to both seas, were ruled by a tyrant emperor, who was both fueled by greed and reduced to laziness whenever a cause or struggle, even those of the people he ruled over, did not affect him. Not only was this man fueled by greed and completely inactive in causes that were not his own, but he was also a coward, who would send many other men to do his bidding, and even when he did actually leave his castle he would not be out long and would hide behind others the whole time. Since the change of the title of emperor over to this coward, the entire empire had quickly fallen into disorder, with groups of bandits and raiders often attacking, stealing from, or hassling all the people in the lands. If you could have lived your entire life in the empire without being once accosted by a group of these bandits, you would have been considered the luckiest man to have ever lived. Although some of the people in the empire approved of their new emperor, many more disapproved of him and his inaction in all the causes that were most important to his people, specifically the bandit and raider crisis.
When word of these people who disliked the emperor and his actions and were even conspiring against him got to the emperor, you could only guess how angered and upset he got at these claims. So, he formulated a plan so cold and so full of evil, that even Diablo himself would have found them as something to rid his hands of. The emperor had decided to pay the four separate raider clans to set up bases close to all of the major cities and trade routes to take care of the people who disapproved of his actions and were conspiring to start a rebellion against him. Within three years all who disapproved of him and his actions were silenced and all sparks of a rebellion had been snuffed out. Although everyone who had opposed the emperor had already been either killed or enslaved, he still feared a rebellion and kept paying the bandits to continue to work for him, but after a couple of years of inaction the bandits would soon grow restless and start looking for ways to keep themselves entertained.
While Mallorkan and Plageiorath were running through the forest surrounding their home, chasing rabbits and laughing like children often do, they came across one of these bandit camps and hid behind a log to spy on the bandits that were staying there. They were speaking, but what exactly they were saying, the children could not quite make out. Not all of them could speak English, and the ones that did had thick accents that made it hard for even a man who had spent a year or more with them to understand what they were saying. Most of them were wearing clothes fashioned of deer skin and held together with leather strips, but those that seemed to have some authority over the others wore bear pelts that were fastened together with gold pins and chains. Only one of the men, who appeared to be the leader since he commanded the ones in bear pelts, spoke clearly and loudly enough for the young boys with their untrained ears to easily understand him.
“My comrades,” the man began, “I know that you have grown restless and anxious to get yourself a little bit of action in the few short years that we have set up camp here, and you will soon get your day of gratification. The emperor has stopped paying us to take care of those that wish to oppose him, and now says that he will send his guard after us if we do not leave his empire at once. This can be seen as a complete betrayal on his part, and I see that the best way to get back at him is by raiding his wealthiest cities. He shall then offer us some sort of payment for the protection of his cities, one of these cities is here right by us. We shall not harm the women and children or those who do not take up a weapon against us for we are not monsters, but as soon as we rally enough men to fight alongside us we shall take Florhaust and then the entire empire!”
This was quickly met with a cheer from all of the men at the camp. Mallorkan then turned to Plageiorath, his eyes large with terror and said quietly, “These must be the bandits that have been raiding the trading caravans! We might be able to stop them if we can kill their leader, but we could also go and warn everyone back home. The former would obviously be more glorious yet way more dangerous. What do you want to do Plageiorath?”
“You want me to decide what to do!?” Plageiorath whispered back, “Have you gone mad?”
“You are the son of the wise one, are you not?” Mallorkan asked, his voice in a deeper tone and much more serious this time.
“Well, I suppose I am,” Plageiorath answered, taking a couple of seconds to weigh his possible decisions, “If we did launch an all out attack we would surely be killed, but if we went back to town, there is no guarantee that the bandits will still be here by the time that we get back with help.”
“There is a possible third option,” Mallorkan said.
“There is!?” Plageiorath said, the surprise clearly heard in his voice, “Why didn’t you tell me that before Mal?”
“I wanted to see what you would choose without the third option,” Mallorkan said, “Besides, I wasn’t really going to follow the option that you would have chosen anyways little Plagie.”
“I’m only a few months younger than you, Mal,” Plageiorath said, frustrated that Mallorkan always treated him like a younger brother.
“Yeah,” Mallorkan said jokingly, “just a few months.”
“Stop it,” Plageiorath said, lightly hitting Mallorkan on the shoulder, “So, what’s the third option?”
“Well,” Mallorkan replied thoughtfully, “I once read that the bandits here in the empire highly value strength in combat and will follow whoever beats their leader in a fair fight. They also grant the loser one last wish, within reason of course.”
“So you want to best their leader in combat?” Plageiorath said, “That’s insanity!”
“That’s not insanity,” Mallorkan said, pulling his pair of obsidian daggers that he had gotten for his twelfth birthday out of his pocket and handing one to Plageiorath, “but you know what is?”
“What?” Plageiorath asked, accepting the blade.
“Doing nothing,” Mallorkan answered. He then got up and started to walk towards the bandit camp. Plageiorath followed him, fearing that Mallorkan would not be able to best the leader of the bandits. Before they could reach the leader, though, the bandits grabbed spears, swords, and other sharp tools that could be used to quickly slash the pair into pieces. Before the bandits could even make a single cut, however, Mallorkan expertly stuck his blade in his belt where it would not be seen and raised his hands. He then said loud enough for all to hear, “I come to challenge the leader of this camp and best him in hand to hand combat.”
“I accept your challenge outsider,” the bandit leader hollered, “Our battle shall commence in the pit.” The bandits started repeating the last two words until it quickly rose into a chant as everyone, including Mallorkan and Plageiorath, surrounded a circle of dirt enclosed by spears with bones connecting them with a small entrance left open. “Why must you challenge me, child?” the bandit leader asked Mallorkan, who was standing beside him in front of the entrance.
“You wish to destroy my home to get back at the emperor,” Mallorkan answered, his eyes straight ahead at the pit of dirt in front of him, “I see this as a direct threat to me, my friends, and my family. This is the best way to prevent the destruction of all that I love.” They then entered the pit and went to either side of it, Mallorkan on the right, the bandit leader on the left. Behind the pit, one of the bandits climbed up onto a wooden pedestal, a large ceremonial horn in her hand.
“Challengers lay down your weapons and prepare for unarmed combat,” she said loudly, “Only the strong will survive and the weak shall receive one final wish at their death.”
Once the bandit leader had handed off his sword and Mallorkan had handed off his dagger to be handed to Plageiorath, she continued with her speech. “Now, since all weapons have been moved out of the pit, as I blow this horn, as is tradition, the battle shall commence and you shall fight to the death. The loser of the battle shall be beheaded by the sword of souls, then they shall serve the user of the sword until the sword takes the life of another.” She then blew the horn, it was a bright sound that seemed to come from every direction at once.
The battle between the two challengers was quite the struggle, at one point the bandit leader would have control, and then the next Mallorkan would be pushing the bandit leader around the pit. After five minutes of this they began to wrestle each other to the ground, still fighting for control of the battle. Finally, Mallorkan got control and proceeded to bang the bandit leader’s head against the ground, partially crushing his skull and spraying blood all over. Just when it seemed like Mallorkan was going to win, the bandit leader kicked Mallorkan in the chest, sending him flying across the pit. The bandit leader quickly got onto his feet, raced over, and stomped on Mallorkan’s head to daze him.
As the bandit leader stood over Mallorkan, he was tossed a sword, which Plageiorath could only assume was the sword of souls. The blade itself was a glistening black and the handle was made of bone with a ruby pommel and a bronze crossguard that was shaped like a skull in the center of the blade. Once he had caught the sword, he brought its tip to Mallorkan’s throat and surely, Mallorkan had been bested. “So, outsider young blood,” the bandit leader said, “what is your dying wish?”
“My wish,” Mallorkan said, “is for you to leave Florhaust and its people alone, and to protect them from the other bandit clans.”
“You were forever the hero,” the bandit leader replied to his request, “weren’t you, old friend?” He then brought the sword above his head, where the mouth of the skull opened, proving that the blade was most definitely enchanted. He then swung it down and blood and gore sprayed everywhere as a blue energy was sucked from Mallorkan into the mouth of the skull and a red one escaped it. The mouth of the skull then shut as the bandit leader turned towards his followers. “I, Valmor, leader of the Dranquinn bandits, swear to follow this man’s request,” the bandit leader said, “and protect the people and city of Florhaust from harm coming from both the Dranquinn clan and all others in this land.”
Then Valmor walked over and put his arm around Plageiorath, giving him some sort of half hug. He then spoke to him saying, “I’m truly sorry that you had to see your brother die that way. I would just like you to know that he has not died in vain and that the entire city of Florhaust will be under our protection until the last of the Dranquinn has succumbed to their enemy’s blade.” Plageiorath thought of telling Valmor that he was not actually Mallorkan’s brother, but then thought better of it. The Dranquinn then traveled to the gates of Florhaust, Valmor guiding Plageiorath with his arm still around him.
The gates opened and the leaders of the town stepped forward, Plageiorath spied his father as one of them. Valmor dropped his arm from Plageiorath’s shoulder and patted him on the back reassuringly, looking as if he could cry. Apparently, Mallorkan’s death had affected him even more than it had affected Plageiorath. After taking one last glance at Valmor’s face, wondering whether the sadness in it was real or fake, or whether it was really for Mallorkan at all, Plageiorath rushed inside the gates. After Plageiorath had left, Valmor knelt, head bowed, with his hands resting on the pommel of his blade, its tip in the ground.
“Dear leaders of the city of Florhaust,” Valmor said, “I and all of the other members of the Dranquinn clan pledge our allegiance to your people and your magnificent city. We vow to protect you and your people until the last of our own have died out. We shall remain honorable and loyal to you, since it was a great young man’s dying wish for us to do so.”
“We gratefully accept your alliance,” said Rauld, the leader of the city Florhaust, bowing his head, “but I must ask who this man is that gave his life to ensure our protection. We also wish to receive his body so that we may give him a proper burial in our cemetery.”