The Legend Tolandias

General fiction short stories not related to Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror.

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DannoE
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The Legend Tolandias

Post by DannoE »

By way of introduction, here's a short story I wrote Wednesday. Enjoy!

Comments and crits are more than welcome. Thanks for your time.

The Legend of Tolandias
A Fairy tale By Dan Head

Once a time, a long time ago, there was a great warrior named Tolandias. Tolandias was a good man, a noble knight of great virtue and even greater ability. And thus he did the things that such men do: he fought dragons and trolls and bandits and other such general menaces, and in all ways he served always to protect the people of the Kingdom of Hollgram, the land of his birth. By the time he had reached full maturity, Tolandias was well-known throughout the kingdom as a force for good and as a protector of the innocent. He was well-loved, and this perhaps explains his fall. Tolandias, like many a good-looking, noble hero, had an eye for the ladies. And the ladies, in turn, had an eye for Tolandias.

And yet, all might have been all right were it not for the fact that Tolandias lived in the Kingdom of Hollgram. Hollgram was ruled by the wicked King Koltrane, a petty, jealous man who envied Tolandias's prowess in battle and, more to the point, his popularity with the kingdom's people. Koltrane was the king, and so he knew that he could have any woman in the kingdom if such was his desire. He was rich, and he was powerful. But he was also short and cruel and petty, and in those days it was said that never once had a woman gone to his bed truly desiring him. Koltrane wanted to be loved by his people more than anything. Thus, his resentment of Tolandias grew and grew until in time it became a terrible thing indeed.

“The people love that fool Tolandias more than they love me, their rightful king,” Koltrane said to himself one day, “And that is something I cannot abide. The people must have no one in their hearts ahead of me. I must send Tolandias away or else destroy him.” Koltrane sat for a moment and pondered, and at last a wicked thought came to him. “Perhaps I can do both,” he said at last. And then he laughed an evil laugh for he knew that soon he would be rid of Tolandias once and for all.

A week passed before the King summoned Tolandias to his court. The great warrior stood before his monarch and prostrated himself. Koltrane smiled. “As you know, our kingdom is not on the best of terms with the Duchy of Colvaire.” Tolandias nodded his head gravely for he was well aware of the military situation in the Kingdom. Koltrane continued, “Not many know this, but things have lately gotten worse. Now Duke Colvaire is threatening to invade!”

“My God,” Tolandias said in horror.

“Yes. And that is why we must strike first, before Colvaire's forces are ready.”

Tolandias bowed. “I understand your majesty. Tell me what I must do.”

And so it was that two weeks later Tolandias crossed the border into the Duchy of Colvaire on a secret mission. His was a mission of duplicity: gain the trust and confidence of the Duke and then when the time came, open the gates of the Duke's castle for the waiting armies of Koltrane. Just thinking of it made the wicked king smile in his empty throne room. He was rid of Tolandias, and soon he would be master of Colvaire into the bargain. And if Tolandias were killed while on his mission? Koltrane would erect to a statute to the fallen hero and weep right along beside his heartbroken people. And then he would once again be first in their hearts.

Tolandias's mission weighed heavily upon his heart, but though he did not care to think deeply about the rightness of his cause, he wanted to obey his king. But it was not easy. On the outside, the Duke of Colvaire seemed a good man. His court knew of Tolandias's reputation as a man and as a warrior. Thus, from the start the men of the court accepted Tolandias as one of their company. And the women of Colvaire loved Tolandias at least as much as had the women of Hollgram. One in particular, Eriella the daughter of the king, caught Tolandias's eye. And though she was a woman of virtue, they spent many afternoons together strolling through the Duke's gardens deep in conversation. In time, Tolandias came to know Eriella in a way in which he had never before known a woman. At last the great warrior knew true love. And true happiness.

A year and a day passed before King Koltrane brought his forces to the castle of the Duke of Colvaire. In secret, the King met with his agent, but where the King expected Tolandias's cooperation, instead his one-time servant defied him.

“You lied to me my king!” Tolandias cried. “The men of Colvaire plan no attack on your kingdom. They are no threat to our people at all! You've sent me here on a mission of conquest for your own purposes, but I will have no part of it. I defy you! I will not open the gates for you. Instead, I renounce you and your service and will fight you myself if I must in order to defend the good people of this Duchy against your evil rule.”

King Koltrane was not pleased, but he was not entirely surprised either. He looked upon Tolandias with hatred in his eyes. “You'll not stand against me, Tolandias. For too long have the people loved you best, but no longer. Today you die a traitor! And tomorrow your beloved Duchy of Colvaire will die with you!” And with that, the king's assassins fell upon Tolandias in a great heap. He fought and fought, but he could overcome neither their poisoned blades nor there weight of numbers. Tolandias fell unmourned in a field far from his home and far from his love Eriella.

In death he descended to the Court of Atul-Anarkis, the God of Fire.

“And what have we here?” asked the Fire God when noticed the arrival of Tolandrias’s spirit. “We don’t often get men of virtue in the House of Fire. What have you done, little man, that has brought your soul here for torment?”

Honorable even in death, Tolandrias bowed. “I am a betrayer,” he admitted. “I sought to betray a good man but instead betrayed my king. And I have likely caused the deaths of thousands into the bargain, including my one true love.” Tolandrias looked into the Fire God’s eyes and accepted his fate. “Cast me into the Fire. I deserve it,” he said.

Atul-Anarkis wanted nothing more than to do just as Tolandrias had suggested and cast the man’s spirit into the Fire, but he could see at once that Tolandrias would not burn. His spirit still possessed too much nobility. Tolandrias would have to be corrupted before he could be burnt.

The Fire God thought for a moment, and then he got up from his throne and put his arm around Tolandrias’s spirit’s shoulders. In a soothing voice he said, “I think that I like you, Tolandrias. It has been long since I met a man of your character. I can see clearly that you’d not be here at all but for the machinations of lesser men.” All of this was true, and so the Fire God continued, “I must punish you somehow, but I’ll not cast you into the Fire just yet. Instead, I shall make you as an aspect of myself.”

Atul-Anarkis turned and drew his sword. Tolandrias fell to one knee. Then the Fire God touched his sword to each of the warrior’s shoulders, saying, “I hereby rename thee Tolandrias the Deceiver, Harbinger of the Court of Fire. Henceforth, it shall be your job to welcome the newly damned to my House. You will be the Liar, ensuring that the damned go unsuspecting into the Fire of Judgment.”

Tolandrias blanched at the fearsome judgment, but he accepted it stoically and without comment. And he set about his duties that very hour. His noble spirit at first recoiled from the lies he told the newly damned, but as an aspect of Atul-Anarkis, Tolandrias could see the evil in their souls. The damned deserved their fate. In time, the once noble knight came to take a perverse pleasure in the terror of the tormented. Atul-Anarkis saw this and smiled.

In this way passed a year and a day, until at last King Koltrane himself came in death to the Court of Fire.

Tolandrias saw Koltrane’s terror and smiled inwardly while outwardly making his face a mask of sympathy and understanding. He bowed. “My king,” he said, “I see that you are afraid, but please, have no fear here. Atul-Anarkis is a just God. He is misunderstood in the world of the living, but here you will find only the gentle embrace of one who understands how you suffered in life.”

“B-b-but,” began Koltrane, “I have heard--”

“You have heard lies, Your Highness, and nothing more,” Tolandrias said. Looking earnestly at his former king, he continued sincerely, “You have nothing to fear here. I assure you.”

Koltrane heard these words and knew the reputation of the man saying them, and he was at last reassured. He embraced Tolandrias as a brother and said, “Thank you, my friend. And thank you for meeting me here.”

“I would not have missed it,” Tolandrias replied.

“Now please, if you’ll just come this way…”

Tolandrias escorted his former king along a long corridor and up to the heavy door to which he had delivered so many over the course of the past year. The fires burned especially hot, he thought, as he opened the final door at last for his very own killer. Kotrane’s eyes grew wide when he abruptly realized the truth. Koltrane screamed, but it was too late. With a shove, the once noble knight threw his king into the Fire. For the first time ever, Tolandrias knew no guilt over the betrayal.

Atul-Anarkis watched this with great satisfaction. “He is almost ready,” he thought to himself, “I have only to push him a little bit farther, and then he will burn!” Thus, later that day, the Fire God called Tolandrias to his throne room for a private meeting. He again placed his arm around the warrior’s shoulders and said, “You have done well for me, my Harbinger, and I am proud of you.” Then the two of them looked down into the Fire. They saw at once the place where Koltrane suffered for his sins. “And I think you’ve learned at last that being my Harbinger is not without its perks.”

“It is true, my Lord,” Tolandrias replied. “I cannot help but take pleasure in watching that one suffer.”

“Yes. I’d noticed,” Atul-Anarkis said, “And it is for that reason that I’ve called you here today. I’ve decided to grant you a boon.”

“Highness?”

“Ask me anything, Tolandrias, and if it is in my power, I shall grant it.”

Tolandrias thought for only a moment. “Eriella, my Lord. I would like to see my beloved again, if it’s possible, even if it’s only for a day.”

Atul-Anarkis smiled. “Very well. I grant you a day of life in which to go and find your one true love. But what will you say to her? Have you thought about it?”

“I have thought of little else, my Lord,” Tolandrias replied. “And after all, am I not now the Deceiver? Surely I will think of something.”

Atul-Anarkis heard this, and his smile grew. “Excellent,” he said, more to himself than to Tolandrias.

Sunset that evening found Tolandrias standing again as a living man in the garden of Duke Colvaire. He did not have to wait long before Eriella appeared. When he saw her, he thought he felt his heart stop. For Eriella, the shock was at least as great. Without a word, she rushed into his arms. He started to speak, but she put a finger to his lips and stopped his words. They stood for a moment remembering before at last reality intruded on their happiness.

“Oh Tolandrias, where have you been? I thought I would go mad without you. I thought…”

“You thought I was dead.”

She nodded. He started to speak, but she again beat him to it. “If I’d but known…” she began, but then she trailed off. At length she continued, “I’m to be married in the morning. But I can call it off! Or we can run away together.”

Tolandrias broke the embrace. He realized at last that, as much as he might have liked to, he could not lie to the one woman he had ever truly loved. He bowed his head. “No. I should go. And you should marry. For, you see, you were right. I am dead.

“I was condemned to the Fire, but Atul-Anarkis has granted me a boon. And so I am come to see you today. But as much as I might wish to say otherwise, I shall be gone on the morrow. The Court of Fire will not long allow my absence. Still, though I am a damned thing, I am yet enough of the good man I was to know that cannot now take you under false pretenses. There is no future for us, Eriella, and I shall not make you any false promises to the contrary.”

A tear ran down Eriella’s face, but even as it did, she made a decision. She looked into Tolandrias’s eyes and said, “You are a good man. You’ve always been a good man. And though you’ve come twice to deceive me, you’ve yet to break my trust. For that and for everything else, I love you. And though tomorrow you shall belong again to the God of Fire and I shall belong to house of another man, tonight we belong to each other. So come. I would know the touch of my one true love before I know the touch of him who will be my husband.”

Tolandrias returned the Court of Fire the next morning deeply troubled. He found Atul-Anarkis apparently deep in thought as well. For many long moments, the Fire God took no notice of his Harbinger, but after some time had passed, the Atul-Anarkis spoke. “My dear Tolandrias… You’ll never fit in here, will you?”

Tolandrias bowed his head. “No my Lord. I fear that I will not.”

“And yet now we are stuck with each other for eternity, no?” Atul-Anarkis sighed a heavy sigh. “Very well then,” he said after another moment. He again drew his sword. “I can see that you will never truly be the Deceiver that I might have hoped. Instead, I hereby re-christen you with a new name and as a new aspect of my divine might. Henceforth, you shall be known as Modor, the Conscience of the Court of Fire. You shall be the aspect of my righteous vengeance in the World Above. If you serve me well and carry out your duties faithfully, then I shall grant you your boon once every half-year. You may visit your wife and your son for one day and one night at the coming of every solstice. Do you agree?”

“But, my Lord, I have no wife--”

“But you do. Observe.” And with that, Atul-Anarkis waived his hand in front of his crystaline mirror. The image of a woman heavy with child came into view. It was Eriella. The Fire God looked at Tolandrias. “This is how she will look a half-year from now. And she will know that the child is yours.”

“But--”

“The child has infernal blood. The signs will be unmistakable. She will renounce her false marriage and flee her father’s kingdom. She will need you. And you should know that she will name her son for his father.

“So now: do you agree to my terms, or shall I torment you after all?”
DannoE

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."
http://www.myspace.com/dannoe
http://www.awesomestormjustice.com

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