Deep in the mountains above the kingdom, it was said a beast of unimaginable horror made its lair and that the one who could slay it was worthy of the throne. Fifty years passed, and the beast yet lived. The mountainside was strewn with the bones of those who had tried their hand, yet the crown sat forgotten and dusty. When Falgar the Great, Slayer of Derahk the Tormentor and Liberator of the Valoreth, heard of the challenge, he took up his sword and set forth.
The battle was long and fierce, but eventually, the beast succumbed and its head cut from its body with Falgar’s mighty sword, Eledeth, Bringer of Doom. Then Falgar passed back through the mountains, coming to the high city of the kingdom, and entering the great hall, cast down the severed head, crying, “Hail and take heed, for the beast has been slain, and from the shedding of its blood, a king has arisen!”
The people were awed by his mighty presence and disturbed by the severed head lying upon the floor. Miktahn, mouth of the people, stepped forward and raising his voice for all to hear, proclaimed, “That’s great and all, but that doesn’t really mean you’re qualified for a leadership position.”
A murmur of agreement rippled through the crowd at Miktahn’s words, and cries of, “we need no king,” and, “our present system of governance is adequate!” rang out.
But Falgar was dismayed.
“I have slain the beast as the legend foretold, with my hand and my sword!”
And Miktahn, trusted and wise, spoke again for the people.
“A mighty feat to be sure, but slaying beasts can hardly be compared with, say, setting a taxation policy or encouraging foreign relations.”
“And would you, Falgar the Great, Slayer of Derahk the Tormentor and Liberator of the Valoreth, even know how to settle domestic disputes between neighbors or man and state? It took us like a decade to set up a suitable justice system.”
Elgath the Fair, who had thus far been silent and still in contemplation, stepped forward and spoke quietly with Miktahn.
“How about captain of the guard? I’m sure they can find more things for him to…slay since he’s so good at it.”
Miktahn agreed, and at length Falgar accepted his new duties. But when he turned to take his leave, Miktahn called after him.
“And take this…head with you! Leaving blood all over the place,” he muttered. “Doesn’t he know maids are expensive?”
Thus they lived on in peace and harmony, achieving a golden age among men, for a land is best governed by justice and rationality, not men with big swords. And whoever came up with that legend probably meant it as a joke anyway.
I like to call this Tolkien meets Monty Python. (“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no system for a basis of government!” – Monty Python & The Holy Grail)
I read an article last week that said you should never start a story with the character waking up, which is unfortunate because that’s how my draft starts. But the opening sentence, “she awoke in darkness,” is possibly the most important sentence of the first half of the book. It doesn’t just describe the action taking place in the scene but also encapsulates her overarching story and the larger action taking place of which the reader is not yet fully aware! In other words, I’m keeping it.
~R. E. Rule