15 March 2013

The Heroes of Urgek-Lesh

So you've made it. You've plunged through the Catacombs of Urgek-Lesh, deposed The Necromancer that lay within, and received your accolades from the town. The Hersir himself came to thank you, and to offer you a position with him. He could use talented warriors like yourselves, and he'd welcome to chance to have the Heroes of Urgek-Lesh on his side. He's willing to groom you for his own position, if you'd take it, but like any other recruit, you'd have to prove you can follow before you can lead.

You know that this is a good position. But you're not sure you're ready to give up the travelling life just yet. There's so much more of the world to see!

The Hersir is waiting for an answer. What do you do?

On one hand, you've got adventuring left to do. If you take this path, the Hersir will not be happy, but he'll probably let you go in peace. You're not the first adventurer he's failed to recruit, and you won't be the last. But what do you have to gain by staying footloose? There isn't a dungeon around every corner, after all, and if you wander forever you might find only contented townships of farmers, roving barbarian herdsmen, and trading posts that go to bustling foreign cities. You could never find real adventure again. You could end your days slain in the street for the weapons you carry and the armor you wear (valuable, in an age where iron is expensive), or lost in the wilderness to die an ignoble death. You could end up in the path of a slaving party and get shipped across the world to die in a place with a name you can hardly pronounce for its harshness.  Your only real options, then, are to wander the world looking for work from town to town, or to try and buy a parcel of land, settle down, and possibly die in poverty, the only sign that you'd ever been more than a man is the rune-carved sword over your mantle, and a single gold coin stamped with a skull you couldn't bear to spend. Your children, should any survive, would be farmers just like you, half-starved and crushed by the necessities of life, old at middle age, ancient at fifty, your hands cracked by the cold and eternally grimed by dirt. Your teeth are falling out and the pit in your stomach is never quite full enough.

When you look at the well-fed Hersir and his ruddy-cheeked men, you realize none of them are as hungry as you were before you managed to slay The Necromancer. You realize none of them wonder what they're going to do next, or where their food comes from. They seem content now because they're forced into action, rather than seeking it, and realize the best parts of life are the quiet ones with women and ale and a soft-warm bed. You realize this could be one of the few chances you get to have a better life than the one you started with.

Or is it? With your popularity, you could gather men around you and carve out your own land. There's space enough for another lord, you estimate, and your party has enough swords and spears that you can defend against at least a few raiding parties. You could even form a colony in that far-away meadow land, with its skraelings and abundant trees. But to go there could mean death- the journey is long, perilous, expensive, and there's no guarantee that you'll even be able to survive in such a strange land.

You gather your cloak about you, and look to your companions. The cold wind whips at you as the Hersir waits. One of your companions shakes his head. The other grins and rolls his eyes. Somehow you've become the leader. You have the feeling, though none of them have spoken yet, that they'll follow you whichever path you take.

The choice is clear. You meet the Hersir in the eyes and...

(To be continued!)

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