To you has passed the cup of a great hardship in the era of your reign.
I understand that few must call you by name, for it is said that you were born with none. Your title is stolen, so let us dispense with any necessity that we must converse in so proper a manner. To do so would insult the memory of he whom you took it from, much as a thief in the night, yes?
I was your right hand man for over a decade, so unlike the rest of the populus, I will not pretend to defend your honor. There is little left for you in these days, my good friend. I assume that even you must be aware of this, even now as you sit at the end of your long table with a crystal goblet in one hand and your scepter in the other, no doubt ready to strike down any who defy you.
You may not remember the reason for which you sent me on this great pilgrimage, though I suppose that much is to be expected; it has been over ten years since you dispatched me, of course. Did you really assume that I was dead? I did tell you that I would come back unscathed. There is no monster in the hills, and I think that you and I both know that, just as we both are aware that you did not send me out there to slay any dragon. Those days are over, as are the years of your glory that so oft slipped away from your forebears.
I feel I must inform you that you did not come from your own land, though I believe you must have some knowledge of this as well. In case you were wondering, no connections to your ancestors turned up during my journey. For now, your throne is safe.
For now, let us speak of things as they unfold before you. The nature of this conquest was never one to be taken lightly, of course. The people are convinced that you have struck down a god, that you alone are worthy of the throne. I think I need not inform you that the history of mixing men and gods to justify mass bloodshed is a rather dark one. Everyone in the olden days wished to associate themselves with the royalty of the heavens beyond; however behind this veil lurks a certain fabric woven from the silk of the Tigris’ whiskers, or as they used to say, “an excuse for everything and the king who shields them”.
I never thought you capable of such deceit. Not that you have fallen into it by any means—I know you much better than that. Or at least I should hope so.
Anyway, as I said…there is no monster. There is, however, the shadow of one that looms in the north. A currency is growing in these foreign lands from which I write, a currency rich with exploitation, a new coin of Denari that has been bathed in the blood of the children. They are all slaves out here, it seems…penniless, wasted, malnourished, dirty. I can scarcely contain my eyes to look at them, should one cross my path. One would be lucky to count how often this happens; they mostly work below in the mining colony of a place called Fort Rives. Their vacant stares are one of a disturbed nature, the sort that rubs off from the abuse inflicted upon them by their masters, no doubt.
At night there are howls beneath the earth, as if the very grounds I walk upon are crying out to me not to take another step. It hurts them, as I have come to learn. I effect what little changes I can, mostly small. The planting of a new seed here or there, tending to my garden, giving back to the soil that which I’ve stolen in my weary steps that are so far removed from the suffering I’ve seen in the poorer classes out here. Tourism has been the main driving force of this land, and it has grown into an evermore profitable venture for anyone proud enough to look the other way. As with any refined society of the Older World, the rich make a killing. I mean this in literal terms, of course. You always were of the fundamentalist attitude.
Unfortunately, I am not so certain what you wish of me anymore, my Prince. You did instruct me before my departure that I was not to interfere in any culture I might encounter, lest I start a war that you would be forced to finish. I suppose now that you can rest assured that I have been safe all these years and am doing quite fine, trading and buying amongst other merchants in my craft. I must, however, admit that I am currently facing the throes of a moral dilemma of how I should proceed up here in the norlands.
The Denarus of Kuldör is gaining quite a footing up here, and the more that travelers make their payments in this crimson-soaked coin, it seems the more children I can see just out of the corner bit of my left eye. Forgive me for not making you aware before, but my right has since been cut out of me in the middle of the night due to a failed agreement some time ago with my first landlord over the hill. He would not accept my payments in our own bills and coins, which up until this point I was convinced was an acceptable currency in all of Vaalbara.
Therefore, I feel that as your once loved and most trusted friend, I ought to encourage you to consider the threat present in this new currency, for it is not only the culture of Kuldör that began its change long before I arrived. The islands of Humont are in danger as well, and it should be noted that this is the very place from whence the myth of the great “monster” referred to in our oldest texts first emerged. Ah…not “ours” I suppose, but that of the land known as Cavarice. And beware, my friend, that the savagery you once so courageously fought against back home has also taken up a new residence not far from this land. He whom you exiled is here, it seems…not quite by name, or at least not the same as before. But he is here, and I can sense him even as I write these words.
Perhaps beneath the earth, he reigns. No commoners are permitted in the mines beneath, which is also where the Denari are forged. Superstitions have emerged in the months I have rented my own rooms and constructed my own storehouse…great myths of the Old World, of the way things used to be. They say it will be the same again; bloodshed, all of it. Those who are not yet infected by the great Plague of Alabaster Bay shall fall to it soon enough, if not to the blood currency.
A monster, you asked…a monster capable of great and terrible things, a fiery horned dragon rearing its ugly snout, breathing fire, smashing the cities to bits with a mere swing of its clubbed tail…this is what you wished me to find, is it not?
Then of course, the answer is no. Such creatures—apart from the fairytale books your mother once read you as a child—do not exist. No, my friend. All that exists is man. The man who will do nothing, the man with a crown of thorns who only changes minds, or the man bent on conquest. Neither is befitting of a human soul to me anymore, and were I with you right now, I would knock the golden laurel leaves from straight off your head! Being that I am not, however, I leave this choice up to you.
For if you do wish to keep such a trinket that in all the realms of infinity will eventually come to mean nothing whatsoever, then you may just have to go to war. If not for the people, then for your land. And I therefore implore you, I urge you…no…I beg of you to do what you know in your heart is right, for if you shall see something of yourself in these poor children as I once saw in you when you were but a boy yourself, then I know you will do the right thing.
So as I’m sure they will say some amount of a million years in the future, the likes of which my eyes have been so blessed to see in my dreams back home…”the ball is in your court”. It is your move, my old friend.
Until we meet again, if ever.
Roberus Maximun Archillås