By Ford_Dent 0 Comments
I am born, or more accurately created, on the first day of my reign—and there is a giant chalice talking to me. I am an immortal god-king, the product of the blood of the nation’s heroes, and it is my duty to keep the kingdom going long enough for the aforementioned chalice to do its work and save us all. We’re fighting a holding action—the best we can hope for is to slow our defeat in the face of an inevitable foe which brings the ravages of time and decay prematurely into the world. There is, indeed, none of the world outside our borders left—as far as we know, anyway. A vanguard of heroes stands ready to fight at my command, and through these mighty bloodlines the future of our nation—my nation, now—rests assured. Provided, of course, I can manage to keep the kingdom going. Also, I can’t leave the throne, which is kind of a bummer—but I can astral project, which I suppose is almost as good—and I can withdraw inward to allow the years to fly by, should I wish (the chalice promises to wake me for important events).
I am twenty years into my reign before my kingdom suffers its first loss. Perhaps that is what caused me to become so hideously overconfident, trusting that I would always come out ahead. My warriors were strong, and they were smart, and I should’ve paid more attention when the game told me this would not last, because it did not last.
Thirty years into my reign and the first fatalities in battle have occurred. My houses have failed to produce strong heirs (or any heirs, in a few cases, because I grew too attached to some fighters and could not bear to part with them—how could I, after all we’d won together, send them off to marriage and old age? Far better for them to die in battle, I thought—or to only retire after old age prevented adventuring—and then to aid in research, or training of the new generation of fighters). By the time I realize my error, forty years have passed and my ranks are perilously thin. A few early deaths due to the caprices of chance and health, and it seems I’ve got to all but start over.
I have failed to produce a diverse set of houses, it would seem. We are a nation of alchemists and hunters, with no front line troops. I should have focused on a more balanced military when determining who should run things. That would have been the act of a wise ruler, but I clearly have no wisdom. We are too low on heroes to even risk marrying them off to produce more heroes, for what if they fail to produce heirs? I spend too much time—far too much time—having the chalice search for new heroes rather than producing them. Yet these heroes seem more fragile than the champions of old, or perhaps the enemy has grown more powerful.
My fiftieth year is a good one. The heroic houses have produced offspring, and adoption has ensured bloodlines where babies could not. My people are stronger, now, and the next encounter with the Cadence is a resounding victory—as is the one after that. Time, however, refuses to slow down. This generation grows older, and once again I find myself in danger of losing whole bloodlines due to my own mismanagement (or rotten luck when it comes to baby production, even from unions which promise fertility). Still, I grow attached to a few young heroes—attached enough that it absolutely destroys me when a poorly-thrown flask cuts one down in what should have been his prime. The thrower was a member of one of the original houses and should have been great, but instead proved to be an incompetent wretch, incapable of hitting targets. I can’t marry him off, so I send him out to die and feel a vicious sort of satisfaction when he does.
My sagewright’s guild is destroyed and its personnel lost in an explosion in my 80th year, because I trusted them to create useful things and hoped for the best when they approached me about a new project. Soon thereafter, the keep of my oldest bloodline falls to an attack that I did not have the strength to repel. I despair, spending the next few years reeling from the loss and trying to figure out a way to recover. I try to start new bloodlines, maintain the faltering ones, keep moving—but another keep falls in my 90th year, and the heroes I recruit as replacements are almost uniformly sickly. At this point I can expect no more than a few survivors out of every engagement with the Cadence.
I suspected somewhere back in my 70th year that my kingdom was doomed, and that it was my fault for being so foolish in the early years of my reign. The Cadence takes more territory, and my heroes keep dying, and after a hundred years of strife, I feel compelled to call it quits and accept oblivion. I am worn down by frustration at these young heroes and by grief at the loss of some of my best houses. The Chalice continues to tell me that we can continue, that we should not give up until the bitter end, and perhaps that is true. Perhaps I will gain some form of dignity in fighting until all is well and truly lost. I do not know, honestly, which would be worse—to lay down and die now, or to keep fighting in the face of an inevitable defeat, drawing out the end and making that much more painful when the end does come.
I’ve made the decision to fight to the end. One day the remnants of my kingdom may stand testament to those who fought, or maybe all will be devoured by the rushing tide of decay and ruin that even now sits at my capital’s doorstep. I have served 127 years as ruler of this kingdom. I do not believe I will serve much longer.
Perhaps there is another like me, somewhere. Perhaps they too have a chalice, and immortality, and a chance to stop the Cadence from devouring the entire world. I will never know, because my story ends here, facing down the monsters at the door, unable to even leave the throne.
Damn me for my foolishness. I’ve killed us all.