"I was born when the Valley was still gray, when the high priests skulked about the moors by moonlight, their lips wet with bloody offerings from the faithful, and mere death did not release warriors from their sworn service nor common folk from their debts.
But barely a spring had passed before the Dragons came and swept the forests and fields clean of the Dark Ones’ stain. The walking dead were no match for the fires and magics that swept down from the heavens. So I was raised to recite the holy verses, to bow down before the little shrine of Irontongue Dragon-King in our home, and to prostrate myself when one of their shadows crawled across the grass, in case it was cast by the Sacred Wyrm himself.
I grew up with no great talents save a stubborn streak and a touch of the Second Sight, which marked me as unlucky among the Valley-born. That same unwelcome gift drew the eye of the King’s men-at-arms when I was conscripted into the unruly host that Irontongue and his brethren assembled and hurled across the Veil to war against the Celestial Empire. It was my first time crossing between worlds and the last time I saw my home.
I watched an avatar of the Gods Above, a wild-haired old man whose skin blazed with soul fire so bright it burned my Sight, do battle with a fully-grown Dragon and burst its skull like rotten fruit. Sorcerers called their elementals into battle against the gleaming ranks of the Imperial Immortals while simple men such as myself fell like wheat reaped by a terrible, implacable scythe.
I did not die, but they took me prisoner. I was lucky enough to be named the personal slave of one of the Immortals. My gift enabled me to make the sacrifices he needed to sustain his energies, gutting animals on the ceremonial altar in his quarters and trapping the smoky reside of their souls as they escaped.
He was a good man in his way, living most of his days in a crystal bottle, eking out the last decade of his 100 years of sworn service to the Empire. His mount was a great and regal creature, something like an Ogre shod and helmed in bright steel. He said it was the human shape that helped keep him sane when he rode, unlike many of the Immortals whose mounts were more beastly. I learned to make him incense whose scent brought back memories of his fleshly years.
Later I held the battered ruin of his glorious mask in my hands when the Gods in their wisdom sent the Imperial Legion across the Veil against one of the Awakened Cities, into the very seat of its power. And then I wandered away, to the edge of things, where your servants found me, my Lady."
He ended his tale and gazed at the thin-faced woman seated on the throne before him, wearing a gown made from thousands of jet-black spiders whose limbs interlaced into a weave that gleamed and stirred in the light of the hall. The Faerie Queen smiled. “I think you will be an interesting addition to my court.”
Copyright 2009 by Doug Sims