Apologies for a lack of updates and a lack of Tarot stories! University work will be over soon, and that will leave me to do as I please (meaning go on week-long benders). But when THAT’S over, there’ll be more weekly tales, I promise. In the meantime, here’s a half a biscuit to tide you over til dinner.
Thogdan impaled the earth, and leant on his sword. From the mountaintops, he watched the purple clouds of Narc’loda drift over the Northern horizon, caressing the Great City’s spires, and recollected the time he had single handedly thrown the tyrant-wizard to the ground below. Inside, he smiled slightly, but his face remained in its usual stony grimace.
He looked to the West, where the Ruins of Mugada would be (if they were not shrouded in mist) –there, Thogdan had faced the Grand Green Tiger, who spoke in riddles so abstract that thousands of years of adventurers had killed themselves in madness. But Thogdan had faced him, ignored the riddles, and skinned the Grand Tiger to death. His pelt had become the boots that gave Thogdan the speed of a tiger.
In the East, the Tower of Enugu climbed – which Thogdan had conquered in the Autumn. He faced hordes of tiny eight-legged men, poured from the walls and the floors to try and pull off Thogdan’s arms. He squashed them all, one by one, and retrieved The Elephant’s Fist; a gauntlet so hefty that a single swing of it could punch holes in mountains, cleave fissures in the earth, and smash lesser men into ash.
The South was home to The Gauntlet, from which Thogdan had only returned in the previous month. Here, men and monsters from the furthest of the eight corners and beyond gathered to do battle in the bloodiest competition the universe had every laid its eyes on. After his glorious defeat of the previous champion, Mendolarr the Unwielding, Thogdan had come out largely unscathed – winning the amulet of the rabbit, granting him luck so ridiculous that he found gold bars in his boots every morning.
Yet, after these trials and adventures, he felt as though there was not much else in the world for him to do. Every enemy had been conquered, every princess saved, as if he had come to a dead end on the road, where there was no treasure but empty silence and a light wind. He was only just coming up to his twenty-second birthday (if the farmers who found him as a child were to be believed), and he was already Champion of the Twenty-Two Kingdoms, and King of at least five of them.
He sat on a broken boulder and tried to think. Was it time to disappear into a hut in the moors, settle down with a family, and let Thogdan the Mighty drift into the old legends? His adventures had lost the momentum they once had – now that he was super-fast, super strong, and super lucky, he wasn’t sure what else he needed to strive for. Even behind his stony grimace, carved from bloodshed and pure muscle, he wasn’t quite sure what he felt anymore.
Thogdan had sat under the T-shaped shade of his sword all night, watching the sun fall down and up as if it were a flat show of light and puppets (which it had turned out to be, when he had travelled the edge of the world and met the Solarmancer himself). When the morning came, he stood up quietly and wandered into a nearby cave in the mountainside and immediately found himself lost in darkness.
He wandered onwards, guided by thin shafts of light and the sound of rushing water, until he found himself in a chamber vaguely illuminate by dusty light.
Here, old, decrepit skeletons rose from the soil and shambled toward Thogdan. Half-heartedly, he cut them down, one by one. There was no battle-cry to echo through the caverns and rattle the bones. Through tunnel after tunnel, he cleaved through what seemed to be the same creature over and over, and found himself at a literal dead end – a bulbous chamber, where an old robed man stood.
“Thogdan!” he screeched. “Tales of your exploits have reached my ear. You will pay for interfering in my designs.”
Thogdan stood in the doorway, silently. The old sorcerer hesitated.
“Are you not Thogdan the Mighty?” he asked. “Where is the blood-curdling roar I’ve heard about?”
“There’s no point.” Replied Thogdan. “There is nothing else to attain. If my battle-cry is already known, then I’ve already achieved that renown. There’s no point in me doing it.”
“But it’s what I was expecting.” The sorcerer said. “You have the reputation of passion, and of your power. I’m just… slightly disappointed.”
“That’s Thogdan, the Legend. I am just Thogdan, the Man. I’ve seen everything and done everything, and there is no wonder left in the world.” He looked at the mass of shattered bones he had left in his wake. “How do you expect me to care about living bones, when I have battled the Aspect of Death in the afterlife itself?”
The sorcerer looked offended. “Not all of us have done the things you have.” He replied, annoyed. “I’m an old man at the bottom of a cave. I haven’t seen daylight in twenty years. When I was a young man, I wished to go south and learn from the greater wizards. My journey ended when I made my home down here.” He looked at the same old bones. “Pray, you are still young. Even if you’ve seen every foot of the world, spare a thought for those who have not.”
Thogdan stood in silence, continuing to grimace.
“Let’s just get this over with.” Said the sorcerer.
They fought, and of course, Thogdan won.
Thogdan stood on the mountaintop again, staring at the landscape that was now near-completely draped in the mist that had encroached from the west. The ring that he had taken as spoils from the sorcerer was too small for him, and made half of his finger turn purple. The ring itself glowed with the sort of energy that would have been strange and mystical to anybody else, but Thogdan knew that all it would do was give him visions of a parallel world in his sleep. He considered throwing it into the murk at the foot of the mountain, but it reminded him of what the old man had told him.
He thought of the others who had not been given such opportunity.
He thought of the ones who had never had the pleasure of slaying a cyclops, or raiding a treasure chest.
The ones who were trapped in dead-end caves.
Thogdan looked onto the horizon, and he saw the mist in the North-east drift, revealing a rising pillar of hot smoke from where some giant fire-breathing creature was laying waste to a small village, and he realised; they needed him. They needed him and the treasures he had accumulated from his journey so far, from his lifetime of opportunity.
And so, he ventured out North-east to slay a monster.