rating: +8+x

Once, long ago, there was a princess. This princess had a beautiful golden pendant, with blue gems, which she had to wear at all times else she would die. It was given to hear by an enigmatic witch at birth, along with a promise that the royal family would someday need the pendant again. Yet even though the King placed the princess under a constant heavy guard, the pendant was still one day stolen by a clever thief. The princess, over the next year, died of unknown, yet inexorable symptoms, failure to thrive being chief among them.

Many years later, the thief was on his own deathbed. He told the whole kingdom that he had hidden the pendant away, for a rainy day that never came. It was in the Hesper Valley, guarded by a beast that only he could pass by safely, he said. This news reached the royal family, and it was quite a story among the lesser nobles for a while. But the witch's warning had been forgotten, the pendant was just a relic from half a century ago. As for the thief, he was called in for trial, but didn't even live to receive his death sentence.

Many, many years later still, the young queen bore a princess. All was well until she recognized the girl's caretaker, a short tempered old woman, from an archived illustration, as well as heard her whispering things to her baby in a strange language. The nursemaid was fired, but nothing else happened until the princess fell mysteriously ill at ten years old. When the fifth mage-doctor had no idea of the cause or solution, she knew what to do. She found again the old records, she read again the warning of the witch, and had the king put out a Quest.

Knights of the Realm, hear this call. The man who retrieves a magical golden pendant from the Beast of the Hesper Valley will be a hero of the Royal Family. He will receive the official title Duke of Concerto, as well as guaranteed claim to our daughter's hand in marriage, pending her survival and coming of age.

Heroes and Hunters and Knights and Knaves came from all corners of the land to test themselves against the Beast of Hesper Valley. No record existed of what it was, it was only known that all who ventured into the Amber Grove, along the Pomma River, disappeared into it, never to return. But the promise of Fame, and Title and marriage to the Princess was too great for most to ignore, and so they came.

Morloch the Mighty was a Knight of Trongen Fief, and mighty he was indeed. With his signature two-handed broadsword, he won most tournament engagements in one swing. His monstrous physical strength and stature allowed him to dominate in hand to hand combat, and there were even legends of him winning a grappling match with a bear. On the more realistic front, he pioneered dead-lifting competitions among knights, and was undefeated except in cases found to have had magic involved.

So West to the Hesper Valley he went. At the edge of the Grove, he stopped to preemptively celebrate his victory by sitting for a while and enjoying the sound of the river. As filled as his reputation was with violence and power, he enjoyed the simple things in life. Eating good bread while listening to clear water rush by - that was one of those things.

Morloch confronted the Beast with a shouted challenge, but it completely overpowered him even before it was fully awake from its slumber.

Frederick the Fast was a Knight of the Welden Fief, and no faster a man was there than he. Outpacing any other knights in footraces, he bested many of his combat opponents before they knew the fight had started. His understanding of motion and momentum let him outmaneuver even large adversaries (including Morloch) in hand to hand combat. There were legends of him winning a race against a wild hare while in pursuit of a carrot, and even more legends of him losing a race to a tortoise on account of him "getting sleepy" and "having plenty of time."

So after stopping by the royal palace to pay respects to the princess, West it was to the Hesper Valley. At the edge of the Grove, he stopped to create a small painting of the trees. Known as he was for athleticism and such traits, he enjoyed making art in his spare time. So there, to commemorate his quest, he painted the trees with perpetually green leaves, and dappled amber colored trunks. It was as if some unknown season had replaced Autumn in the yearly cycle, where the wood aged like honey and the leaves grew brighter to spite the sky.

Fredrick tried to dodge the charge of the Beast, but it was too fast, and he was dead before he knew what happened to him.

Daniel Horsespeaker was a young man of the Traveling Bards, and such was his talent for animal whispering that he needed only be in a room with a horse or a pet animal for it to quiet, and await instruction. Circuses consulted him for exotic creatures, horsemasters hired him for especially ornry foals and horses. He came from a small village, had even less status than the average peasant after running away from his home to join the Bards, yet the common folk knew him as one who would succeed where others failed due to their focus on "winning."

And so, telling no one where he had gone, Daniel set off to the West for the Hesper Valley. As he approached the grove in the evening, he watched the golden-ringed mountain skyline fade behind the treetops. He was moving to the deepest point in the valley, and they would soon disappear. He told himself that when he saw those mountains again, he would be a Prince! Technically, he would be a Duke, but he would be betrothed to a Princess, so effectively he would be a Prince. He was as sure of that as he was sure of the mountains, an ever-present part of the skyline.

Daniel approached the beast calmly, with his best comforting voice, but it turned and trapped him beneath a stare so powerful that he could only wait, frozen, for it to come and kill him.

Earnest Kingfall was an innkeeper in a small town called Aspendale, and there was absolutely nothing special about him. The name was a holdover from an age lost to time, from a hero nobody remembered. He served hardy ale in the winter and refreshing juice-and-spirits in the summer. The three rooms and stable at his inn had decent, if not full-time business from travelers. He triumphed over his social opponents by being able to pay his taxes when they weren't. He had no legends to his (first) name, but his inn was known in the town as a place of warmth, safety, and good fun during hard times.

He caught wind of the call from the King, as innkeepers always hear of everything. He considered answering it, perhaps he would get lucky and be able to elevate himself from peasant status. Neither he nor his children would ever have to work again. But he decided that he was content with his life, and that he wouldn't like the politics of royalty anyway. He had heard it could get extremely boring and at times, rather back-stabby. So he stayed home, in Aspendale, and the farthest West he ever went was to the general store for flour.

He died at the ripe old age of eighty, in his sleep, and left three sons and three daughters to run the old family inn.

And so, the princess never got her pendant, and she died a year after she fell ill, just like the first one. And the kingdom grieved, but most of its citizens didn't even know there was a princess until the Quest was published. And the People and the Royalty of the Realm moved on, happily ever after.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License