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Untold Tale of the Common Guard

The tales most often told are those of the talented, those who by good fortune and birthing enjoy a lifetime of uncommon ability. These heroes (as we call them) are veritable supermen, warriors with unmatched strength and speed or wizards with an instinct for mighty arcane powers. They slash and burn their way through the rank and file of humankind, dispatching all who oppose them for no better reason than because they stand opposed. They live the lives of gods, choosing the fates of those unfortunate enough to cross their paths, and their stories echo across eternities.

But are these tales truly worth telling? Should we gape in awe before these men-made-gods simply because they were born the seventh son of a seventh son, conceived when the planets aligned, springing from the womb in the midst of an unearthly volcanic cataclysm? Why do we fawn over these lucky few? Do they deserve our adulation?

Consider for a moment young squire Donovan. Born to a hard-working farmer and his distressingly homely yet devoted wife, he has striven for years to strengthen his body and his mind, working the fields with his father during the day and slaving himself to his mother's bookshelf at night. Ever since the king saved his humble village by providing supplies during a drought and famine, Donovan has dreamed of one day becoming an officer in His Majesty's royal defense force, hoping that he may eventually repay his debt of gratitude.

Little does Donovan know, of course, that long ago the king waged an illegal war against the elven folk of the nearby kingdom, decimating their numbers with wicked subterfuge and genocidal slaughter. Donovan is educated in only the knowledge available to him, and as such he still believes His Majesty is a beneficent leader worthy of praise.

With the passage of years, Donovan matures and finds his place as a squire in the palace guard. He has recently fallen in love with a local merchant's adorable, humble, and witty daughter, and he hopes to pay her dowry and wed her within the year. His dreams and plans are slowly coming to fruition. He is happy; through hard work and humility he has earned every ounce of joy he feels.

Then one day, while Donovan is standing guard in the parapets overlooking the palace, a figure clad in shadows and rimmed in blue fire floats impossibly over the walls and alights beside him. Donovan has never seen sorcery, and is paralyzed with fear. His life flashes before his eyes: racing through fields of wheat chasing after childhood friends; swigging his first tankard of beer, and many more, and vomiting in the alleyway soon afterwards; waving farewell to his parents as he sets off for the academy; looking into his lover's eyes as he confesses his affection under the harvest moon. And in the blink of an eye, an ensorcelled blade plunges into his heart, biting cold grips his mind, and his life is ended. His pure, kind soul is siphoned into the hilt of the eldritch blade. The killer does not even pause, and is upon the next guard before Donovan's lifeless body crumples to the stones.

Many more guards die that day. Some have the fortune to fight for their lives, though few stand for longer than a instant. The assassin is an elven youth, born under the Witching Moon and gifted with the magical essence of U'than Kothpe, orphaned in his fifth year by the evil machinations of Donovan's king, and trained to wield the ancient soulblade Fau'k'thon in seek of unmitigated vengeance. His name is Harlor, and he slays the evil king - who is secretly also a vile necromancer, of course - after an epic final duel that lays waste to the whole of the castle.

Harlor is the hero of the story you've been reading, and you celebrate his every achievement. You glory in his superhuman abilities and gloat with him as he dispatches hapless opponents with his magical and admittedly unfair weapon. You cheer as he exacts revenge upon the king and the Council of Dark Seers. You smile as he marries a half- elven former whore with a heart of gold, sets aside his blade to pursue a life of honest, rewarding labor, and prepares for the second book of the trilogy.

But why is lofty Harlor the Bold's tale worth telling, when lowly Donovan the Bleeding's tale is easily overlooked?

Don't worry, I'm not trying to send you on a guilt trip because you always root for the upperdog. I simply find it curious that we -- mortal humans of unremarkable stock, who have to work full time jobs mucking about in the mire of society, uncelebrated and largely ignored by the rest of humanity -- choose to fall in love with heroes that are born or otherwise gifted with superhuman powers. Why is almost every fantasy or science fiction story built around a tale of someone who is exceedingly extraordinary?

I doubt we will ever understand why we find fancy-pants fellows more interesting than ordinary folk. But next time you load up your favorite video game, and begin slashing your way through wave after wave of cannon-fodder grunts, remember that they, too, may have a story to tell. And maybe that story will touch you somewhere that a super-story will never know to touch.

- Brolo

 

What I'm listening to: Queen

Some bands belong in your ears no matter who you are or what you do, and Queen is one of those bands. How can you deny a song called Ogre Battle? Great King Rat? The Prophet's Song?

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The Manly Gamer

"Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of warm arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content." - Conan

Life is what you make of it.
I am Brolo, and I make fun of it.