A Tale of Heroes
West. Go west. Head west. Travel west.
Tjaden growled and shook his head, as if to clear his mind from the the voices that spoke to him, voices that he alone could hear. As always, it proved useless and the unseen whisperers continued their assault on his mind.
West. Go west. Head west. Travel west.
Tjaden sighed and resigned himself to continue his travels. He ran his fingers through his dark hair, damp with prespiration. Although the autumn was fast approaching, summer had as yet refused to yield and the heat made mid-day travel all the more unpleasant. A scarcity of trees to offer shade didn’t help either as he made his way across the open landscape. The Denbarra Plains were just that, a mostly flat, grassy plains with the occasional hill or clump of trees to break up the empty landscape. A quick swig from the waterskin was his only pause and Tjaden resumed walking, heading westward down the Old Trade Road as the voices had wanted him to do.
He cut an odd figure, a lone traveler trudging along an ancient trade road. Few traveled outside the civilized regions near large cities, and few still did so without the protection of much greater numbers. Even the massive, worn greatsword strapped across Tjaden’s back could prove little deterrent to the bandits, beasts, and other dangers that lurked in the wilds of the Denbarra Plains. The lack of any armor or protective gear also seemed to highlight Tjaden’s apparent vulnerablility, as he was clad only in worn, dusty traveling clothes.
‘At least the voices stop when I do what they ask,’ Tjaden thought to himself. A priest had once told him that the voices belonged to angels, or perhaps to the gods themselves, urging Tjaden further along the path to fulfill his destiny. Tjaden disagreed, thinking that this was more of a unreasonably cruel joke. Would the gods and their servants really have made him the victim of an incredibly painful prank? Would they really have taken everything from him just to make another mortal a pawn in their endless games? If these were the voices of angels, Tjaden was certain they were mocking him.
In a moment of contemplation and reflection, Tjaden relaxed and let his mind wander back to before he had been cursed with hearing these voices. He had been the handsome young heir of a noble house, blessed with wealth and prosperity. He had lived a life of quiet normalcy, content to carry on the family traditions as his father before him. He had even taken a wife, another noble family’s beautiful daughter whom he had loved and conceived a child with, and all of which had seemed blissfully ordinary.
It was a horribly fateful day when he gained his “gift.” He and his family had been out for a casual horseride through the city when his horse had reared unexpectedly. Tjaden was thrown from his mount and struck his head quite heavily along the cobblestone streets. He had lain unconscious and in a fever for a number of days, and all of the best healers that money could buy were unable to rouse him.
When he finally did awake many days later, Tjaden was immediately struck by the voices he heard, numerous, disembodied, whispering voices that it seemed no one else could hear. They constantly barraged him, an unending cacophany that urged him to take up arms against evil and corruption. The healers and his family dismissed it as a result of his fall, but the voices continued unabated, and in fact seemed to increase in intensity as time progressed. Some took the voices as a sign of mental instability and many viewed Tjaden as a growing madman.
The unending voices drove Tjaden to the brink of insanity. In a fit of frustration and rage, he lashed out, shattering windows and breaking furniture. During his anger, he kicked a table, and as it flew across the room, it accidently struck his pregnant wife as she rushed into the room to see why her husband was so enraged. She collapsed weakly, bleeding from where the table had slammed into her.
Tjaden was instantly mortified and hurried to her side, stammering his apologies and begging for forgiveness. When his father came upon the scene, the elder nobleman was shocked and angered at his son’s actions. He shoved Tjaden away from the injured, sobbing woman and bade his servants to care for her. He then whirled upon his eldest son, yelling at him for disgracing his family and shaming them. He grabbed Tjaden who could barely protest, and marched him to the gate of their estate.
“I will not have a madman as an heir to my house!” Tjaden’s father threw him to the ground. “From this point on, your brother is my sole heir and inheritor of my title! From this point on, I have only one son!” He reached to his belt and pulled out a small pouch of gold coins and flung it at Tjaden’s prone form. “Leave here, and never cross this threshold again!” He spun and walked off, leaving his son lying in the muck on the side of the street, closing the gate behind him.
The warning echoed in his mind and snapped Tjaden from his contemplation. He cursed himself and glanced up the road, his eyes narrowing as he saw five squat, ugly humanoid creatures emerge from the tall grass and scurry toward him. They ran forward in a strange manner, ducking low to the ground and offering little in the way of a profile, and brandished simple, ill-forged swords while one held a crude bow at the ready. No doubt they thought a single, unarmored traveler would be an easy target.
“Goblins,” Tjaden spat the name with distaste. He strode forward easily, his greatsword flashing in the sunlight as it swung free in his hands. His eyes narrowed as he focused on the archer in the back, as it barked out orders to its companions in a shrill voice. Likely the leader. Now marked as the first to die.
“Te’annuith malaghkir!” The words sprang unbidden to Tjaden’s lips and as usual, he did not understand what it meant. But he could not deny the fierce elation that spread through his body after speaking. His gait gradually increased, till now he was charging the goblins, even as the archer nocked an arrow and took careful aim at the approaching human.
Tjaden’s legs tensed like a coiled spring, and an instant before he would have clashed with the goblin rush, he leapt through the air, twisting and vaulting over the surprised attackers. Their weapons too low to respond in time, they could only slash feebly at empty air as Tjaden was already past them.
The startled goblin archer loosed his arrow in surprise at Tjaden’s unexpected move, his shot flying widely errant. Cursing in the guttural goblin tongue, he shouted something to his allies, dropped his bow and tried to pull his crude blade free from its belt sheath. Two long strides, however, and Tjaden was already upon him.
A powerful, rising cut with the greatsword nearly severed one of the archer’s hands at the wrist and he fell back, shrieking in pain. The following downward chop cleaved through the goblin’s collarbone, nearly splitting its torso in two and spraying a fountain of blood across the dusty road.
(More to come soon!)