Inside the sacred tent, Sev the Barbarian knelt before the tribe’s high priest. The sacred fire of Galeth burned behind him and illuminated the priest’s face.
“Sev, Seventh Child of the Seventh Leader of the Seventh Tribe, do you accept your fate as the one foretold?”
Sev, born into prophecy, without any say in the matter, knew only one answer. He was, and always would be, the Seventh Child of the Seventh Leader of the Seventh Tribe.”
“I accept,” Sev answered, bowing his head to his knee.
“Bring forth the Spear of Galeth!” the high priest shouted.
Four of the Seventh Tribe’s strongest warriors carried the Ark of the Spear into the sacred tent and placed the stone case behind the high priest. The priest placed his hand on the Ark, reciting the incantation of Fenault. The Ark’s lid glowed pink and opened.
“Sev, the Seventh child, retrieve your destiny!”
Sev took Galeth’s spear from the Ark. The tribe cheered.
Sev held the spear for all to see, speaking the ceremonial words ingrained upon him since birth.
“Today we ride across the unclaimed desert to the Cavern of Moore! And with the swiftness of Galeth, we will stop Boh’s awakening!”
During the reign of King Bluthmarn III, the city of Narr was the pinnacle of culture, society, and architecture. Glass spires rose high above the marble walls surrounding the city. Poets, musicians, and fashion designers of any historical note resided inside its walls. Famed merchant houses for textiles, jewelry, and spices headquartered in Narr.
Anyone who was anyone came to Narr to walk its flagstone streets and soak up its culture.
And protecting the Realm’s richest city was a red and white guardhouse just outside the city’s main gate.
And inside the guardhouse, reading today’s newspaper, sat Daris the guard.
“Good morning, Daris!”
Daris looked up from the paper and found Alice Preston learning through the gatehouse window.
“Ms. Preston! Good morning! Lovely day!” Daris said, quickly folding up the paper, and brushing off his epaulettes.
“It is, isn’t it? Are you going to see the Harlequins’ show tonight?” Alice asked, referring to famed traveling circus.
Darius puffed out his chest. “I’ll be guarding the city.”
“Oh, poop. I hoped you’d join me. Perhaps another night,” Alice said, pouting her lips.
“I… would like that,” Daris said, allowing a brief, unprofessional smile to touch his lips.
“Wonderful! Well, I should get to work,” Alice said, turning to the road out of Narr. “Have a wonderful…”
Alice paused, squinting at the horizon. “What do you suppose that is?” she asked, pointing.
Daris leaned out the guardhouse window and caught a whiff of Alice’s mulberry perfume. He followed her gaze. In the distance, a cloud of dust tumbled towards the city.
“Better get inside the gate, Ms. Preston. This could be trouble.”
“Be careful, Daris,” Alice said, touching his arm before hurrying back to the safety of the city’s walls.
Daris ordered the gate closed.
Crowds gathered inside the gate and on the city walls. People whispered about the cloud. They asked Daris what he thought it was, but he simply picked up his paper and continued reading.
“He’s so brave. He’s not worried,” Alice said to those around her.
“We have nothing to fear with Daris at the gate!” someone else shouted.
Three cheers rose for Daris, then everyone waited to see what trouble the dust cloud would bring.
Hoofbeats rumbled across the plain. The cloudy shadows took shape. The people of Narr leaned forward, shouting descriptions, and wondering why barbarians approached.
Daris continued reading his newspaper.
The Seventh Tribe stopped a hundred yards from the gate. A single barbarian detached himself from the horde and rode to the red and white guardhouse.
Sev held the Spear of Galeth aloft and shouted, “I am—“
“State your business,” Daris muttered, folding his paper.
“Excuse me?” Sev asked, turning to look at the squat man in a box.
“State. Your. Business.” Daris repeated, enunciating each word.
“To… uh… I’m sorry, this is throwing me off a bit. I have a whole speech I’m supposed to give and—“
“Business! State it,” Daris said, slapping the paper down.
“Yes, sorry. To prevent the awakening of the demigod, Boh,” Sev replied.
Daris pulled out a clipboard and began flipping pages. “Boh… Boh… I’m sorry, I’m not seeing anything. Do you have any paperwork?”
“Paperwork?” Sev asked, glancing back at the high priest who, very unhelpfully, shrugged.
“Yes. Travel papers, state of work, seal of someone or another perhaps?” Daris asked, counting the options off on his fingers.
“I have the Spear of Galeth. Would that work?” Sev asked, holding out the spear.
“A weapon? Are you threatening me?”
The Narrian crowds booed.
“No. Absolutely not. I’ve taken a vow to save your city and the world. I would never…” Sev said, quickly putting the spear behind his back.
“I believe I can help, my Noble Sagewent,” a voice squawked from inside the horde.
Sev turned atop his horse and watched the horde part, letting through a tiny, old woman, loaded down by several leather satchels.
“Who are you?” Sev asked, having never seen this member of his tribe before.
“Madal, the bureaucrat, oh Noble Sagewent,” Madal said, approaching the guardhouse, while rifling through one of her seven satchels.
“Bureaucrat?” Sev repeated.
“I file forms, licenses, camping permits, and the like so no one else has to. All the stuff that takes away from the splendor of barbaring,” Magal said, before poking her head into one of the sacks.
“All hail, the bureaucrat!” Sev shouted.
“All hail!” the horde shouted in response.
“Oh! Haha, very funny,” Magal said, pulling a small leather purse from the third satchel. She walked to the guardhouse, stepping between Sev and Daris.
“Now then, I think you’ll find everything in order. Here is our invitation from the mayor and the King of the Realm to stop Boh’s awakening. Our license to fight beings up to, and including, demigod status. A permit to bring supernatural weapons into the city. And camping permits for outside the walls. Should we just set up camp over there?” Magal asked, pointing to a smattering of tents east of the city.
Daris grunted, shuffling through the paperwork. Unfortunately, everything was in order. Magal even had triplicate copies of the supernatural weapons permit for filing with the guardhouse, the armory, and cathedral.
With the entire city watching, Daris had no choice but to allow a horde of barbarians inside.
“I’m sorry. No,” Daris said, handing the paperwork back.
“No?” Magal said, glancing through the paperwork. “But I don’t understand.”
“My job is to protect the city. I do not believe barbarians have a place here,” Daris said, loudly so the citizens of Narr could hear.
“But we have the proper paperwork. I went through the proper channels and—“
“I have the Spear of Galeth!” Sev shouted, raising the spear over his head.
“That’s fine, dear, but right now we need to get this cleared up,” Magal said, patting the Sagewent’s leg. “Now then, what can we do to make this happen?”
“I’m sorry, but I do this for Narr!” Daris said, raising his chin with pride.
“We have followed all laws and completed all paperwork,” Magal said, holding out the paperwork for Daris to take.
Daris struggled. Magal was correct, they had followed the law and had the correct paperwork… But they did not have his blessing.
“There… are… laws… greater than those of men,” Daris said, bowing his head and performing the sign of the circle.
“Greater than… Excuse me?” Magal asked.
“Daris! Daris what are you doing? Let them in!”
Daris leaned out the guardhouse window, pushing past Magal, and saw Narr’s mayor standing behind the gate.
“Mayor Trutt! Hello! Never fear, I’ll keep these heathens out of the city!” Daris shouted, saluting the mayor.
“Let them in you buffoon! The prophesy says Boh will rise any moment. His awakening will destroy the city!” Trutt yelled. “And will someone open this damned gate!”
Daris looked at the citizens watching him from the walls and the crowd behind the gate.
He looked at Alice.
In her eyes, in all their eyes, he saw the same thing.
“Belay that order!” Daris shouted. “Only the guard of the gate may order the gate opened! I’m sorry, Mayor, but my duty must come first!”
The citizens of Narr cheered.
The mayor, surprised at the reaction, took a moment to realign himself with his constituency as there was an election fast approaching.
“Perhaps if you came back tomorrow? We appreciate your urgency, but we need time to discuss the pros and cons,” Mayor Trutt shouted to the barbarians.
“The pros and cons? But your city will be destroyed!” Sev shouted.
“Yes, yes. You’ve been very clear about that. I’m just not sure we believe you,” Daris said. “Honestly, in all the years I’ve lived in Narr, we’ve never had a demigod awaken.”
“Yes, but the Cavern of Moore—“
Magal returned the paperwork to her third satchel.
“Have a nice day and thank you for visiting Narr,” Daris said.
“Yeah, sure,” Sev said, turning to ride off.
“One moment,” Magal said, digging through her sixth satchel and pulling out a scroll. “I’ll need each of you to sign the refusal of services contract. Basically releasing the Seventh Tribe from any damage, disaster, or death resulting from not fulfilling the prophecy. If you could sign here, here, and… well, next to each X, we’ll be on our way.”
Daris snatched the scroll and signed his name next to each X, feeling the paperwork undermined his impressive display of heroism for Narr.
“I’ll need a copy of this for our files,” Daris said, handing back the scroll.
“Of course,” Magal said, handing the scroll to Sev.
Sev signed on the lines marked, “Prophesy Filler,” and handed the scroll back to Magal.
Magal whispered an incantation older than the one used for opening the Ark of Spear. The scroll glowed green and a second version of the signed scroll appeared next to the first.
“Here’s your copy. Make sure to file it with your Hall of Records and—“
“I know the procedure for filing forms with the city,” Daris snapped, taking the scroll.
“Of course you do. Now, I suppose we should be on our way, my Noble Sagewent?” Magal said, turning to Sev.
“I suppose we should,” Sev said, shouldering the Spear of Galeth.
“Don’t forget to come by tomorrow after we have this all sorted!” Mayor Trutt shouted.
But the barbarian horde had turned and was already riding back across the Narrian plains.
Daris stepped out of the guardhouse, watching the retreating horde’s dust. Then he turned to the people of Narr.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of Narr! Today is an important day. A day we have saved our children from—“
The ground shook. Daris stumbled, grabbing the guardhouse for support. Several people screamed for the gate to be opened.
“It’s only a small tremor. Now where was I? … Ah yes! Today I have protected you from the scourge of—“
The ground shook again. The cathedral’s glass spire cracked.
“Just an aftershock! You see—“
But no one saw, mostly because they were tumbling down into the Cavern of Moore as Boh stood and wiped the sleep from his eyes.