You are a guard in a fantasy world. You notice a man in elegant armor kick a chicken in the streets. In your lawful rage, you manage to kill this man in the name of justice. To your dismay, you realize you just killed The Chosen One. You just doomed the world.
In my defense, it was self-defense.
I saw him saunter through town in his expensive, fancy armor, nearly bowling over Granny Fairchild when she didn’t get out of his way fast enough. I didn’t think much of him - no one did, that I knew - but what was I going to do? The man was clearly some sort of lord or higher, and I’m just a guard. Not even a captain or sergeant! Just a normal, everyday run-of-the-mill guard.
In short, there’s nothing special about me. No special training, no special knowledge - unless you count laws, which I memorized - nothing whatsoever.
I didn’t say anything when he demanded prices to be lowered, and forced his “goods” on us. Spoils of adventures, he said. You can’t get them anywhere else. What are we going to do with forty preserved wyvern eyeballs! It’s not something any of us can use. I don’t care how much some wizard in a city we’ve never been would pay for them.
I didn’t say anything when he aggressively flirted with all the women, to the point that little Maria started crying and her brothers looked for sharp objects. Thank the gods that Maria’s wife is so quick-thinking, and got his attention elsewhere! It would have been a very ugly, very deadly brawl, and Maria would have lost her brothers.
I didn’t say anything when he co-opted the blacksmith’s forge to make a few daggers to push on us - because his skill is so legendary, however were we to survive without his priceless daggers? Ahmed was unable to fulfill his orders that day, and will now have to work twice as hard to catch up! And I wanted him to look at my gauntlet, too, because it was starting to look a little warped at the wrist.
But when I saw that man start to kick around Granny Fairchild’s chickens, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer. Those chickens are all she has! Every morning, Granny Fairchild comes to market with a basket of fresh eggs, and we all buy some - even if we don’t need eggs - to make sure she doesn’t go hungry. Like most of us, she refuses handouts and charity, preferring to get by on her own.
“You can’t do that,” I told him, using my sternest voice.
“Do what?” he asked, kicking a hen and sending her scuttling.
“That,” I said. “Kicking chickens. Or any animal. You can’t do that.”
“Who’s going to stop me?” he asked arrogantly. He looked me up and down, mockingly. “You?”
And just to be an ass, he took out his sword and killed one of the chickens right then and there.
Now, killing someone’s animal isn’t necessarily an arrestable offense. You get a fine, you pay it, and you go on your way. Especially something small, like a chicken. A cow, now, or a horse, that’s a different story. But a chicken - no.
But by this point, I was so tired and so fed up with his attitude. Who was he to walk into our village in his fancy, expensive armor and harrass our people? Making our shy girls cry, assaulting our widows and grandmothers, nearly robbing us blind by forcing his “goods” on us in exchange for ours, and putting good people out of work for his barely average daggers? An entitled ass, I tell you.
So I took out my sword and intended to bash him at the back of his head to bring him to his knees. It’s not a very brave act, to attack someone from behind, but you must understand that even then, he was some mighty adventurer while I am a lowly village guard. In a fair fight, I had no chance.
Apparently, I hit him too hard, or just right, because he went down like a sack of potatoes and didn’t get up. I looked him over, then call for our healer. When she arrived, she pronounced him dead and congratulated me.
Imagine that, being congratulated for being a murderer.
Well, we gathered his things and I sent out a report to my sergeant in the next village over, who must have forwarded it to the captain, because the next thing any of us knew, we had an entire garrison marching on us. The captain demanded to see me, and I reluctantly made my way up.
I murdered a lord’s son, I thought. They’re going to arrest me for murdering a lord’s son! There goes my career!
I hadn’t murdered a lord’s son, of course. I did something much worse.
“You killed Adam Draxon, Hero of a Thousand Lands?” the captain demanded. He looked me up and down, much like the man did, but less mocking and more incredulous.
“I never knew his name,” I managed, nearly biting my tongue in two I was stammering so bad.
“He wore the Crest of King Ellifry!” the captain said. “How could you not know?”
“Is that what it was? I thought it was a fat eagle…”
The captain and all his men stared at me for a long moment, where I was certain that time must have stopped, because it lasted an eternity.
“He was on his way to slay the vicious dragon plaguing Balewood Forest! And you killed him!”
“It was an accident!” I protested. “I was trying to arrest him.”
“Arrest him?!” The captain was apoplectic. “You were trying to arrest the Hero of a Thousand Lands? For what? What could he have possibly done to make you arrest him?!”
“He, ah, well, you see… Hm. It was like this…”
“Go on, I’m listening. I’m very eager to hear your reasoning.”
I took a deep breath. “IwasarrestinghimforkillingGrannyFairchild’schicken.”
“He killed Granny Fairchild’s chicken,” I said again, slower. I didn’t dare look up. The captain wears some nice boots. Shiny. Tailored. “So I was arresting him.”
“You murdered Adam Draxon, Hero of a Thousand Lands, Defender of the Free People, for killing a chicken?”
“It was an accident!” I protested again. “I was just trying to… subdue… him…”
“And who, pray tell, is going to slay the dragon plaguing Balewood Forest?” the captain asked me scathingly. “You?”
“I can’t kill a dragon!” I said. I’m pretty sure I squeaked, too.
“You killed the Hero of a Thousand Lands,” he told him, sarcasm practically dripping from his voice. “You must be a mighty warrior, so a dragon can’t be too difficult a task for you.”
I stared at him in disbelief for a long moment. In that moment, I saw something. Okay, a lot of things, but mostly the one. I saw fear. Not of me, gods no. The captain was afraid. I had - accidentally or not - killed our only hope against the forces of darkness in our world. Who was going to slay the dragon? Certainly not me; I’d be lucky if I got close to the beast. And certainly not the captain. Really, there was only one person who was capable of such a feat, and he was moldering in an unmarked grave in our village cemetery.
The next few hours went by in a blur. I was given the Hero’s old things - things we had carefully packed away and inventoried to prevent theft - to protect me. I was told some of it had magic, like protection against evil and the like. It looked pretty, but ultimately worthless. What would a shiny ring do against a dragon, except make it envious and eat me for the ring?
Really, what else did I expect? If I had stayed, I would have been hanged for murder, at best. At worst, I would have been drawn and quartered in some public place while my entire family was arrested and enslaved for my crimes. In a way, the captain was saving me. This was a chance to redeem myself - albeit a very small, very dangerous, and very, very stupid chance. But it would keep me from a very public execution, which was generally better.
It’s not like the thought of chucking all of the Hero’s things the minute I got out of sight and running never occurred to me. It did. Numerous times. I thought about it as I lay awake at night. I thought about it as I heard story after story after story of the Dragon of Balewood Forest. But someone had to try, damnit. Someone had to at least try.
I never did get my gauntlet fixed.
When I had finally made it to the dragon - which, by the by, involved talking wolves and a bargain with a witch that I’m pretty sure she now regrets as you can’t exactly extract a dead person’s first born if they’ve never had children - I was tired, and hungry, and terrified out of my wits.
The mountain wasn’t as big as I pictured. It was a large hill, at most, with a shallow cave. I climbed up - a feat, I assure you, that sounds more daunting that it was. I mostly walked, and like Balewood Forest, it was a pleasant walk. And when I reached the mouth of the cave, I mustered all my meager courage to shout my challenge to the Dragon of Balewood Forest.
“H-hello?” I called out. “Anyone home?”
A roar echoed from the cave - a massive sound that had me quaking - and smoke curled out. I felt a blast of heat roll out of the cave.
“Look, I’d just like to talk for a bit,” I said. “If you have time, that is. I can come back tomorrow, if now’s not a good time for you!”
Heroic bravery at it’s finest, I tell you.
I felt an impact that was like being hit by a mountain. I thought at first it must be some sort of cave-in or avalanche, but not. Just dragon. I rolled down the hill a ways, losing the sword and shield almost instantly along with my bearings. I had barely stopped moving when a clawed paw pinned me to the ground, and I was face-to-face with a wall of long, sharp teeth and sulfuric breath.
“Adam Draxon!” the beast roared at me. “You murdered my parents! You have left me an orphan! Do you have anything to say for yourself before I kill you?”
“Um, I’m not Adam Draxon,” I said.
“What?!” the dragon screeched. It pulled back just enough to look at me with one beautiful sapphire eye. Really, if you get the chance to look at a dragon’s eyes, you should.
“I’m not, um, I’m not Adam Draxon,” I repeated. “I’m not anybody.”
The dragon pulled away, glowering at me. “You’re wearing his armor. You’re wearing his Crest!”
“I still think it looks like a fat eagle,” I muttered as I took the Crest off and tossed it aside. “Look, I know you were expecting Adam Draxon, and I’m sorry, but I’m here. So can we talk, please?”
“Where’s Adam Draxon?” the dragon demanded, arching itself up to look bigger. For all the stories I’d ever heard, the dragon was really about the size of a large draft horse. Certainly not the size of a house, like I was told. And it’s scales - while very bright - weren’t exactly what you’d call shiny.
“Um, he’s, uh… well…” How do you explain that the Hero of a Thousand Lands is dead? Especially to someone who wants to cook and eat him? “He, uh, he died.”
The dragon cocked it’s head to look at me with one eye. “Dead? You expect me to believe that the Slayer of a Dozen Dragons and Terror to the Dark is dead?”
“Yeah, I was surprised, too,” I admitted. “It was an accident.”
“Accident?” the dragon roared. “An accident?!”
“Well, how else was he going to die young?”
The dragon lowered itself and stared at me for a long, long, long time. “You don’t smell like you’re lying.”
“But you don’t smell like you’re telling the truth.”
I took a deep breath. “I was trying to arrest him. His back was turned, and I hit him too hard with the pommel of my sword.”
“… he’s really dead?”
“He’s really dead.”
“But he killed my parents!”
I walked up and patted the dragon on it’s shoulder. “I know, I’m sorry.”
And that’s how I “defeated” the Dragon of Balewood. He told me his story, and I listened for a while, and when night fell, he invited me to stay with him. A dragon lair is surprisingly clean and comfortable, and we talked most of the night. The dragon - Lorcanthan - was in need of a permanent home. The terrorizing was merely to get Adam Draxon to his location, so he could get revenge for the murder of his parents. There was very little terrorizing, I learned, as Lorcanthan mostly showed up and bothered the horses and maybe burned a field by accident.
That morning, I decided to go to the villages around Balewood Forest. For the better part of a season, I went to each village and spoke with the people. In truth, very little actual damage occurred, and even then, it was mostly by panicking animals. The mayors and headsmen were very reluctant to speak with me about the matter, at first, but slowly listened to what I had to say.
Later, I went to Lorcanthan and had him come with me to the outskirts of Balewood, where the mayors and headmen were waiting. I helped negotiate a deal for them, between the dragon and villagers. And so the Dragon of Balewood went from plague to protector.
Really, that’s how it started.
Afterwards, I went to speak to the witch about the bargain, and she was willing to wait. Being as the bargain was struck when I was under extreme duress, I managed to talk her down to shared custody. We’ll figure out the details when I do have a child, I guess. She sent me to talk to her sister, who was across the country, about a matter involving kidnapping.
That was a horrible, horrible case, where I discovered the the Wicked Sorceress of the North was being blamed for the actions of a vile man. The less said, the better, but when I had settled that matter, word go around.
And when a Horde of Orc Barbarians led by Thorid the Bloodthirsty threatened, I was sent to deal with them. I don’t know how, exactly, it happened, because I had a few drinks with Thorid, but I ended up accidentally challenging his eldest to a duel and - purely by chance, I promise! - killed her. Which made me, by Orc law, Thorid’s heir. Somehow. And second-in-command.
When Thorid died from gangrene from an untreated injury by boar, I became the leader of the Horde of Orc Barbarians.
From there, things got complicated fast. And now I’m the Leader of the Dark Forces, and it’s the eve of war. I sent King Ellifry a letter asking that he meet with me to negotiate this matter, but I haven’t heard back yet. I’d really rather avoid the whole war thing, but honestly, when you actually sit down and listen to the Dark Forces, you learn that there’s a lot of inequality and oppression that really needs to be addressed.
And as a guard sworn to uphold the law, it’s up to me to see that it is addressed.
Never did get my gauntlet fixed.