Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Prophecy

Hragbrell the Trepanner crouched next to his small cookfire and watched the stars while he ate a few bones leftover from his dinner. The only sound in the still night was the snap of the bones in his mouth, the wind through the leaves, and somebody approaching the campsite through the underbrush of a nearby forest.

In a flash, Hragbrell had seized his spiked hammer and began to think about skulls, holes in skulls, relieving cranial pressure and generally bashing things on their most skyward part.

A small, shabby figure came crashing out of the forest. It tripped on a root and pitched forward into the fire. It's robes caught and it began to run in circles. Hragbrell didn't feel like performing any rescues that evening, but he also didn't feel like talking to anybody, and people loved a show. So Hragbrell seized the flaming person around the ankles, dug his own heels into the ground, and spun until the wind blew out the flames. Hragbrell then dropped the figure on the ground and menaced it with his spiked hammer.

"Wut yoz wan?" Hragbrell asked the robed figure.

"Please! Help me!"

"Wy?" Hragbrell asked. "Wut yuz nam?"

"Josephine!" the figure yelled.

Hragbrell squinted. Beneath the layer of ash, dirt and scratches received from thorny forest flora, he realized that he was talking to a woman.

"Yuz a girl," Hragbrell said. He frowned.

Josephine nodded.

"But yuz clohhz ar on," Hragbrell said, who rarely spent time indoors, and only then because he usually didn't have enough gold to pay the women to go outside. They always complained about ticks, but Hragbrell argued that at least when you were outside, you expected bugs to crawl on your bottom. He rarely got anywhere with that answer. "I gues yoz lern noo stuf each day."

Something crashed in the forest.

"I escaped my master! And now he's trying to kill me!"

"Yuz master? I had a master. I trepanned him and took his hammer," Hragbrell said, smiling. His teeth were black, but not from rot. Rot was a thing of the past for Hragbrell's teeth - he'd had his pearly whites replaced with cast iron. "I'll help!"

From the forest came a black cloud that obscured the stars and blew out the campfire.

"Tuk me tu ours tu lite the fire!" Hragbrell yelled in a tone that had often prevented him from needing to fight at all. Many tailors could tell when Hragbrell was in town from all the new trousers that were ordered.

The smoke didn't seem to even be moved by his breath, let alone his rage. It swirled around them like coal dust but darker. After a moment, Josephine stood up. Sadness had replaced the fear in her eyes. She walked up to a confused Hragbrell, who looked like he was about to start swinging his spiked hammer at the smoke.

"He chose to protect me. He'll work," Josephine said.

The smoke cleared, leaving nothing but a small campfire burning next to the woods.

When Hragbrell woke up, he was inside of a small stone chamber. Torches burned on the walls. At the end of the chamber was an enormous door. Harp music played from an unknown source, making him wince. The only music he liked was the clank of steel on steel or, better yet, steel on bones and squishy soft bits of people who hadn't been smart enough to hire him before their enemy had.

Josephine stood nearby, her head bowed.

"Wat yoz do tu me?"

"I'm sorry. I lied. I didn't run away. I had to help my master find someone with a heart of gold." She dropped her eyes. "I thought he'd accepted me as an apprentice because I was talented. Turns out he accepted me as an apprentice because nobody with a heart of gold would reveal that fact to a shapeless evil from beyond the edges of the universe. I guess I look innocent."

Josephine put on a tough face. "But I'm not! I'm evil, through and through! You look like you've killed your share of men, but I've killed thousands! Millions! I've torched villages, burned monasteries, led brave and courageous men and women down paths of cowardice that led to their own private tragedies!" She gestured at herself. "But my master didn't care about any of that. He wanted an innocent-looking girl."

The smoke entered the room. Josephine pointed to the door.

"He commands that you open it."

"Noz," Hragbrell said.

"Your death will be quicker that way," Josephine said.

"He shud open it himself," Hragbrell said.

"He can't. Only somebody with a heart of gold can open it. So it is written on the door."

"Wy?"

"Because what lies beyond that door is an enigmatic artifact of pure evil. It casts the target to a realm of unimaginable torment and binds them their so thoroughly that they cannot even choose to leave, for it makes the prisoner regard it as justice that they suffer. Priests of Valena the Fertile locked it away behind a gate that is paradoxical. It can only be opened by somebody with a heart of gold, because somebody with a heart of gold would never consider using it," Josephine said.

"Oks," Hragbrell said. He walked up to the door, grabbed the silver handle, and tugged it open. The hinges whispered as the door swung out to reveal an alcove. The harp music grew louder. Hragbrell cringed. Laid upon a white marble table was a sceptre. It was as black as Hragbrell's teeth, and apparently made out of the same material as it was cool to the touch and roughly surfaced. The head had been forged into a lattice, and imprisoned within the lattice was a pale blue gem.

"The Mace of Juporgin," Josephine whispered. She stepped towards Hragbrell, and the smoke floated towards him, as he stepped out from the alcove. "Hand it over."

"Noz," Hragbrell said. He thrust it into the center of the smoke, which began to swirl and was sucked into the gem.

Josephine stood nearby, horrified.

"Now yuz free!"

"How'd you do that? The Mace of Juporgin can only be used by somebody with a heart of gold!" Josephine wailed.

"I haf hart of gold, iz tru. I pult it outta the chest of a dragin," Hragbrell said.

The Moral: whenever devoting yourself to a prophecy, do research to confirm that the writer wasn't a jackass.

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