Two Stories by Nathan Stinson

The Man Who Desired Everything


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There once was a man who desired everything. Power. Wealth. Fame. Control. His enduring goal throughout his years was to advance himself and achieve greatness, no matter the cost. He made friends and allies wherever he traveled, in the hopes they could prove useful in his conquest. And as easily as he made friends, he betrayed them. Once their usefulness had run out, once they gave him all they could give, they were cast aside. Some would consider his actions immoral but he saw them as logical and even necessary. What use was someone who could no longer help in his goal? 


The man was born with nothing. His father was dead long before his ill mother passed away due to complications during childbirth. No maids were present to help with the birth. No extended family filled with excitement to see the newest addition to their clan. She was alone. She gave birth to him in isolation. She whispered a couple words to her child with her dying breath, a phrase full of love for her firstborn son. And then she passed beyond the veil of the world, and he was left alone. He wasn’t discovered until two days later, when a neighbor knocked upon their shack out of curiosity. There he was found with his deceased mother, enveloped in a scene that was undoubtedly horrifying. He was freezing, starved, and horribly dehydrated. And yet he still lived. Completely fresh to the world, he had nothing and survived.


His survival was considered nothing short of a miracle. He was brought in by the church, and he was taught to read, how to carry himself properly, and everything else a decently educated boy might need to survive. Then after reaching the age it was determined he could begin to work, maybe around 12 years old, he was shipped off to work in his country's iron mines. Conditions were hard for the workers that supplied the country its military might.


The man would never forget how comfortable his bed was in his dorm in the church. His pillow was always nicely fluffed, his blankets were thick and plentiful, and his mattress felt like he laid amongst the clouds in the sky. He would never forget the food he ate, how the butter sweetened the bread and how the apples would crunch after a hard day of scrubbing the floors. He would never forget how lonely he felt in his room, locked away unless to eat or clean up. These were his favorite memories. Left by himself, his mind would wander and he would create dozens of stories of himself being an adventurer like in the books the church provided him to read. He would dive off his bed, picturing in his mind that the cold floor tiles he was landing on were dragon scales and the air he sliced his imaginary sword through was the dragon’s monstrous head. Other stories he created involved him escaping from pirates or hiding from vicious orc hunting parties. His favorite tale was one where he imagined he was a knight who was the only one capable of removing a magical sword that was encased in stone. He loved his time at the church, especially the time he could spend alone in his room, alone in his mind. This would be the last time he would dream such pure dreams. 


He hated the mines. He hated the straw bed he was given, which quickly became caked in mud and iron dust. He hated the dried meat and stale bread he was given after a hard day’s work he was doing for his country. He hated the thuggish workers that refused to leave him alone. He hated when they flung insults his way. He hated when they threw their food scraps in his direction. He hated when they would strike him when no one else was around. He hated how they excused their malicious behavior by saying they were making him stronger, that he was being toughened up. He abhorred their reasoning, their pathetic mindset on how boys were meant to grow into men. What the other workers did to the boy would not make him stronger. No, what would transform the scared boy stuck working deep in the mines into the exceptional man he would become is what he would do to them.


The boy waited. He was still a child, maybe close to 14 years old at the time, but he knew when the right moment struck, he would become a man. And sooner than he thought, his time had come. He was off alone in the mine, working with a pickaxe when two of his usual tormentors approached. The boy knew that if he purposely isolated himself, he would make himself almost too tempting of a target. He had his back to them, slaving away with his tool as they stood thirty feet back, sneering. They began with an onslaught of insults. They remarked on his smaller size, then his lack of friends, and then finally on how he was an orphan who will never know his parents. The boy worked through it all, ignoring it and continuing to break away at the rock wall. He knew this would upset the thugs, pushing them to increase their effort. Pebbles began to fly his way, then rocks, and finally stones the size of billiard balls. One struck him square in the back, and it took all the effort the man could muster to avoid reacting. 


And then his moment came. One of the thugs began to walk towards him. He had never turned around but from the sound of the thugs’ voices, he could tell it was Gerald and Thom who had approached before. He believed from the heavy steps that Thom was the one walking towards him from behind. He couldn’t hear the slurs Thom was spewing as he advanced. He was focused only on Thom’s steps as they grew closer. And when he felt Thom was within range, he spun suddenly. 


No more words were said again by Thom. No more thoughts went through his head. He never even saw the pickaxe but he could feel it as it erupted the side of his skull. The boy Thom and his friends targeted had never fought back. He had previously made no sign of resistance. And now, Thom’s last sight before his eyes closed forever were the boy's eyes staring into him, full of rage, fear, and worst of all euphoria. 


Gerald was speechless. He struggled to act. His heart was beating in his throat and his legs began to shake. His eyes were locked on the body of his dear friend Thom, who he had known for years. Now he lay motionless, the left side of his head stained red and shattered. Gerald’s eyes began to water ever so slightly, and for a second he felt intense rage. That anger rose and boiled, ready to explode onto his friend’s attacker until he raised his gaze to the man holding the bloodied pickaxe. In that moment, Gerald’s anger was transformed into horror. He fell to his knees, frozen with grief and dread. He shook ever so slightly as the man apporached with his bloody pcikaxe. Not much is known about what occurred next exactly, but the words the man spoke have lasted throughout many stories and retellings.


“I was scared to strike anyone, scared to inflict pain upon another. But now I have. I am still scared to end a life, to deliver the final killing blow.” The man spoke softly and calmly. His arms flexed as he lifted the pickaxe over his head. In an instant he brought the bloodied end of the pickaxe down onto Thom’s head, killing him instantly.


“And now I have.”


Gerald’s body was found next to Thom’s. They were the closest friends there could be in the iron mines, and now their bodies laid to rest side by side. By the time they were found and eventually identified, the man was gone, far from the mines and the brutal crime scene he had left. The guards had always reminded the man of the maids that would look after him at the church. Cold, distant, doing their duty so strictly they didn’t even seem human. He had memorized their patrol schedules and when they would switch shifts. He could have left weeks before he did, but he wanted to make sure he was prepared to do what he had to do when he was out in the real world. He escaped easily from the mines that night, and scampered off quickly into the nearby wilds before he could be seen from the guard camps a short ways from the entrance. He thought of his mother.


“What is my name?”


From there, the story muddles. No one is quite sure where the man went from there. No one is quite sure where he is now. The only clues of his existence lie in fables told by those who swear they’ve encountered him and survived. Some try to track down his trail of destruction in his quest for power, and either fail to find him or perish when they do. While his whereabouts are a mystery, his name is anything but. His name was known by everyone who could know, and yet no one dared utter it. His name was self given, sometime after his disappearance from the mines. He could not remember what his mother named him, nor was anyone around to hear it. The name he chose sounded magical in nature, vastly different from the usual names of any surviving kingdom in the world. It is said his name wasn’t simply chosen, but crafted to inspire power, victory, and compliance. His legend slowly grew, until it was so strong and so terrible that it was believed even speaking his name aloud was enough to invoke dreadful luck. 


The most famous occurrence of this was around the time the man was 25. A skilled dragon slayer, after conquering his latest and most deadly draconic foe, challenged the man to a duel by shouting his famed name one hundred times from atop the mountain of the dragon he had just killed. The dragon slayer’s body was found later atop the same mountain, sliced to pieces in a way that only the most mastercraft sword could accomplish. The duel was not observed, as the followers the dragon slayer had brought fled once he began his shouting of the man’s name. Witnesses claim a note was left by the man, but it’s never been recovered. Nevertheless, the man’s name had become legendary and associated with a violent curse.


I am writing this far after the age of this legendary man. Be it by powerful magic, old age, or a gruesome end, the man is now gone from this world. His name no longer inflicts fear. His grip on the world ended long ago. But this story does not follow the crusade of the man with endless ambition. This tale I have to share is one about another man. One who wasn’t born with nothing. One who didn’t desire wealth or power. This tale follows the one who proved that he wasn’t lesser to this terrible creature who thought himself above all others. 

This is the story about the one who was even greater.


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He was born from nothing and dreamed of achieving everything.


His name was Soleth Corlian 

(In Forgotten Elvish: Eternal History, Legendary Master)


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Frederick’s Elves



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“This is unbelievable! Finally someone who trusts in what I say! You will be paid handsomely for your services, I swear to you!”


“There is no need, friend! I will accept a small payment but nothing more. I too have an interest in the ruins you ramble about. Helping you uncover the secrets they hold will be reward enough” 


“Thank you, great warrior! Thank you! I have little wealth to spare for this expedition, and paying one man over a band of mercenaries will help me out tremendously! Tell me again, what is your name?”


“You can call me William Havelock.”


“I would’ve thought I have heard of such an impressive warrior such as yourself! The way you carry yourself, your mastercraft equipment, you seem to wield such power!”


“You think too highly of me, friend! Throughout my adventures I have learned the benefit subtlety can bring when you travel the lands as much as I. And what should I call you, friend?”


“My name is Frederick Gohm, a common name now but if this expedition goes well, my name shall soon be known across the land!”


“Well Mr. Gohm, shall we gather the needed supplies and head out? I can leave nearly immediately.”


“I enjoy your enthusiasm William! Give me a day or so to make the proper preparations and we’ll be off! It will be a long trek through treacherous land but with a warrior like you, we should find no trouble!”


“We will find no trouble indeed.”


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Frederick Gohm was a thin man who made up for his lack of size and strength with his abundance of passion. He frequently bounced from odd obsession to the next, always keeping his mind occupied on the next large discovery that could make him famous. His most recent focus was on the potential existence of the forgotten elves, beings who are said to have lived far before any human alive today. Many doubt that these elves even existed, but many others believe they once did. An even smaller group believe that the elves still exist today, hidden in untouched areas of nature around the world or deep underground. Frederick was one of these extremist believers, who thought to himself that he would be one of the first humans to make contact with the elusive elves. 


Frederick made a habit of exploring caves and other oddities that were rumored to contain at least a clue to where the elves may have gone to or where they may be now. Usually his efforts would end with disappointment, discovering at best an empty dank cavern, at worst a bandit camp or a monster’s lair. Many sellswords have died under the employ of Frederick, with his persistence in pushing into the unknown in hopes of a breakthrough. The locals already did not trust Frederick, and even less so when he believed he had eventually found something.


“I swear to you, I swear to you all!” Frederick would shout in town squares across the land. “I have found them! I have found the elves! They exist, deep in the earth! All I require is a team of soldiers, some supplies for the journey…” People would then begin to turn away, some staying to yell at him to leave. They viewed him as a cheat, someone who had claimed to find the elves and would instead steal any supplies he was given.


Frederick was stuck. He believed he had indeed found something. Him and his group of sellswords had recently been attacked deep in a tunnel carved into the earth, hidden for years behind the overgrowth of the jungle it resided in. Frederick once again was the only survivor. But he swore to anyone who would listen that he had seen elven architecture along the walls of the tunnel. Brilliant gold set into beautifully carved wood spanned the entire length of the tunnel, which eventually opened up into a large circular room that contained a large golden door straight across from the tunnel entrance. The walls of the room were decorated the same as the tunnel, with the gold gleaming brightly from the dark carved wood. A single light hung from the middle of the ceiling, bright enough to illuminate the entire chamber. A thick brown vine connected the wooden ceiling to the brilliant light, which appeared to be a white sphere almost magical in nature. The other men immediately had put out their torches and rushed throughout the room in celebration. 


They first grabbed the ancient elven swords and bows that were laid out across gorgeous wooden tables. They next looted the shiny golden goblets and plates off the tables and tucked the silver cutlery into their packs. Frederick however was only interested in the door. He ignored the frenzy of mercenaries and immediately began to investigate. The room itself was unusually empty, the only notable furniture being the six gold inlaid tables that were spread throughout the room. No decorations adorned the walls either, allowing the sweeping golden pattern in the walls to be the main focus. 


The door was the most magnificent thing Frederick had ever laid his eyes on. It appeared to be solid gold, about four feet across and ten feet tall at the crest of its arch. Carved into its surface was a brilliant pattern, seemingly telling a story that would take Frederick countless hours to interpret and understand. Its characters were unrecognizable to him. Frederick hypothesized this foreign language must be the language of the elves! He was ecstatic! He had succeeded!


Frederick’s celebration was cut prematurely. Just as his excitement reached his height, disaster struck! From the hanging light above came a scratching. Quiet at first, indetectable to the intruders who had just entered the room. But as the men below began to steal what wasn’t theirs, the noise grew. The scratching began to swing the light ever so slightly, just enough for Frederick to detect. His eyes glanced towards the swaying sphere of light above, observing as cracks began to slice through its glowing shell. The others were too occupied with their scavenging to even notice, obsessed with collecting as many valuable trophies as they could carry. Even so, Frederick was still not prepared for what was about to happen.


In an instant, the room’s shining light was replaced with a void of darkness as dozens of spiders as large as hands erupted from their luminous egg. Luckily Frederick had kept his torch in hand, which served as the only source of light during the ambush. He fled quickly towards the tunnel, the mystery of what may lie behind the elvish door far from his mind. He felt he had never moved this fast in all his life. Flashes of golden blades lit up by his modest torch went streaking all around. He could hear the sellswords yell out to each other and to Frederick, trying to get a handle on the sudden disastrous situation. Frederick did not listen. Yells of confusion and encouragement soon became cries for help and mercy. The spiders’ legs scurried all around the room, sending shivers down Frederick’s spine. He never turned around in his escape, knowing that the men would fall and the knowledge of this tunnel would be forgotten if he was killed. Without hesitating, he reached the tunnel and climbed its slope towards the surface, well aware of the frightening pursuers snapping at his heels. His legs were pounding as he sprinted, and he hoped they would not slow before he was well away from the spiders. Bursting from the entrance of the tunnel, he breathed a sigh of relief as he took a peek behind him and saw the spiders would not follow him from their home. 


Somehow he had managed to escape certain death. He ran the whole way through the jungle, until he passed its edge and came upon a well traveled road. There he sat for a long time, breathing heavily and trying to slow his pounding heart beat. Eventually a friendly wagon rode by, and for a few gold pieces, Frederick bought passage to the nearest town where he could finally rest for a while. All he had to do now was return again soon, this time better prepared and with somebody hopefully better equipped for the job. 


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“Don’t think I am unaware of your reputation, Frederick. I’ve heard from many mouths that those who venture out with you tend to more often than not fail to return.”


“I assure you William, I can tell you are different from the others. You seem able to handle yourself nicely, which is just the man I needed to accompany me for this job.”


“I am not worried about what dangers lie ahead. I am referring to the mystery behind how you manage to live to the end of these adventures when men stronger than you fail to.”


“If you are insinuating that I am betraying those I employ-”


“I am saying no such thing. I know you are not capable of causing my death, no matter how deadly of a trap you lead me into. I simply wish to hear your side of things. What’s your secret?”


“To tell you the truth, I believe it’s simply luck. That, and I choose to run before I choose to fight. The mercenaries who are usually under my employ possess too much pride to run from a fight. While they value that pride, I value my intelligence. That’s how I escape death so often. It’s all relative to the men I bring.”


“I will not be running Frederick. And neither will you.”


“I beg your pardon-”


“Because I will succeed in getting us to the end of this Elvish ruin and discovering what it holds. If you run from an encounter and I survive, I will hunt you down and drag you back.”


“I see. Tell me William, what are you seeking for from the elves? You seem passionate.”


“Same as you. New discoveries. Advancements in knowledge. I do not fail at what I do, which is why you will not run. I need you Frederick. You are the most knowledgeable person I know regarding the elves and I don’t believe I can unlock their secrets alone.”


“Thank you William. I appreciate the kind words. I will stay by your side as long as you promise to get us through.”


“Of course.”


“Sounds like we are in agreement! We are nearly there by the way! You can see the edge of the jungle in the distance, on the edge of the horizon. We should arrive by nightfall!”


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The journey that Frederick and William embarked on was uneventful, at least in William’s eyes. Frederick had panicked when lowly bandits sprung from the brush on the side of the road and he nearly ran off. But he must’ve remembered what William said about fleeing, and kept his horse calm enough while William dispatched the attackers. The whole attack lasted only ten seconds, and ended with five bloodied bandits and Frederick and William left without a scratch. 


Blood dripped from the edge of William’s blade as he wiped a cloth over it and returned it to its sheath. The men he killed wore only leather armor, which did nothing to slow his blade. As quickly as William had jumped from his horse and slaughtered the bandits, he was on his horse again, waving Frederick along down the road. Frederick had missed the action, as he was too focused on keeping his horse and himself calm. William’s speed and apathy was nothing short of amazing, teetering on the edge of almost seeming casual for his warrior companion. 


The only other encounter worth mentioning involved a pack of wolves descending on their camp while they slept one night. Frederick awoke to the sound of whining and pained howling, and crept out of his tent to the sight of William sitting by the fire whittling a stick. At the edge of the firelight laid seven grisly wolf carcasses, stacked atop each other and shining a crimson color underneath the silver moonlight. William simply nodded his head towards Frederick to let him know the danger had passed, and returned to his whittling. Frederick’s admiration for his ally was growing.


It took four days for the party of two to reach the edge of the jungle where their elvish tunnel had inhabited. It was here they dismounted from their horses and strode into the sea of trees, torches in hand. Soon, after taking some time for Frederick to backtrack and search, they stumbled upon the vines that hung and disguised the tunnel entrance. New vegetation had already grown in place of the vegetation Frederick’s mercenaries had cut down before, but William’s sword made short work of it. And into the tunnel they ventured. 


Even though he had seen the tunnel and the delicate craftsmanship that adorned its walls, he still could not contain himself.


“Look at this William! Aren’t you impressed?” Frederick couldn’t help himself from running his hands along the wall, tracing the curved golden lines. “The way the gold is carved into the wood, it’s unbelievable! Have you ever seen a place as beautiful?”


“The work done here is impressive, I agree.” William kept his head straight ahead as he walked. “But let us marvel in its beauty once we get to the end of the ruin. This is merely the entrance hallway.”


They continued down the tunnel, keeping their eyes peeled and torches high in order to see any spiders before they saw them. But as the tunnel got deeper and deeper, they saw no sign of any spiders climbing the walls or spinning webs from the ceiling. It had been a couple months since Frederick had last seen this place, and still the thought of the spiders’ legs scuttling about made his hair stand on end. They could hear no spiders now, only the sound of their boots echoing as they continued to progress.


At last, after several minutes of steady walking, they found their way to the end of the tunnel. Frederick had been bracing to see the bodies of his past companions, diseased with spider venom and rotting from age. He expected to see spiders across every wall, staring intensely at the entrance with all eight eyes each. He was surprised to see that the room looked exactly the same as before. Six wooden tables were spread throughout the room, each seated with golden goblets and plates. Shiny silverware was placed neatly in place, and around two or three swords that shined with an unnatural mystical light laid across each of the six tables. The golden arched door was still set in the wall, same as it was before. Everything was exactly the same, except for the spherical light that hung over the room.


In place of the singular sphere of white light, there now existed seven spheres of light exactly the same as the one before, each hanging from their own thick brown vine. None of them hung from the middle of the room, and there was no clue there had ever been one there besides Frederick witnessing one hung there before. 


“I thought you said there was only one light.” William said, shielding his eyes from the blinding light from the combined spheres above. Before with one light the room was well lit. Now with seven the lighting was almost unbearable. 


“T-there was only one before…” Frederick trailed off, eyes fixated with fear at the multiple lights above. “I-I believe that maybe…” He trailed off again, his throat dry and lips trembling.


“How many men were with you last time you were here?”




“Great.” William instantly had his sword in hand. “If what you told me before is true, this may prove to be slightly difficult. Stand back and get out of the way.” William tossed his torch to the side and lifted his left hand out in front of him palm up. Frederick could not understand the phrase William spoke next, but at the end of his chant a brilliant yellow light started to form above his palm. It was the size of a marble, yet it proved too difficult to look at for long. The yellow light shined brightly, casting a slightly yellow glow around the room. It rose until it nearly touched the ceiling. As soon as it began to slow, William made his move. 


William gingerly picked up one of the swords that was laid across the table, keeping his eyes towards the lights. Nothing happened. Frederick held his breath, too scared to interrupt what William was planning. “I guess that was not enough.” William noted, tossing the elven sword to the side of the room. 


The next couple seconds Frederick could only describe as utter chaos. William became a flurry around the room, knocking over plates and goblets, sending swords and forks against the beautiful walls that surrounded him. And on cue, the shining eggs above burst from above, snuffing out their white light. William’s yellow light managed to provide more than enough light for the room. This allowed Frederick to finally see for sure the fate he has barely escaped before. 


Inside the eggs were not only the vicious spiders that Frederick encountered before, but hanging by repulsive black webs were the mercenaries from before, decayed and completely undead. Their skin was damaged from what seemed to be acid, the armor they once wore utterly destroyed. The hair had been dissolved off their bodies, and their eyes were a milky white, devoid of life or thought. While the spiders fell from the ceiling, the corpses stayed connected, the black webs holding them in place by their necks. Their limbs swung limply as the spiders scurried out of the eggs, and Frederick believed them to be dead until one spoke in a demonic whisper.


“Bring me more, my children. Let me feast like our masters intended.” This froze Frederick with horror, panicked from the gruesome sight and words. William however, wasted no time. His sword moved with seemingly superhuman speed, slicing spider after spider as he came upon them. Frederick remained in place near the entrance, too scared to even flee. He could only watch the horror in front of him and hope that William was as powerful as he believed.


Within less than a minute, William had exterminated the spiders with ease. They hadn’t even touched him. As the last spider was cut in half, a horrible shriek filled the room. The seven undead from above pounced upon William all at once, teeth bared and eyes full of hatred. Frederick yelped in fright and found himself cowering under one of the tables, eyes covered to avoid watching his new friend and protector torn to pieces.


As the ghoulish men descended upon William, all hope seemed lost.


An explosion erupted suddenly, sending flame and destruction to all edges of the room. The table Frederick was hiding under absorbed most of the force, but Frederick still was blown away to the side of the room. He thought for sure he had died or would soon die, and laid still with his eyes closed. He hadn’t an idea of how much time had passed before he heard his name being called out from the middle of the room.


“Frederick, are you alright? Are you hurt?” William’s voice seemed far away, quiet compared to the ringing in Frederick’s ears. “Frederick, can you hear me?”


“Yes I-I believe so. How are we still alive? Those beings… they surrounded you.”


“Open your eyes Frederick and get up, your injuries don’t seem that serious. I saw you dive underneath one of the tables and decided that spell was worth the risk.” Frederick opened his eyes to see William standing above him, arm outstretched to help Frederick to his feet.


“Thank you, William. Your help has been invaluable in this venture.” Frederick managed to get to his feet with William’s help, his muscles sore and patches of his skin scorched ever slightly. The air stunk of what Frederick could only imagine being the smell of the spiders and undead burnt to an absolute crisp. The small spiders were shriveled up and blackened, and the seven men Frederick had brought with him before now laid flung around the room, their bodies destroyed and broken. The grand wooden walls were now scorched with ash, blackened from the intense and sudden heat from whatever trick William had executed.


William was unscathed, his armor still in pristine condition. His sword was still in hand, covered in black blood. “I have never seen a spell such as that one. You killed them all instantly, like it was nothing.” Frederick was in awe of the man he had brought along with him. He felt small standing next to the powerful warrior William proved himself to be. “Do you think we are finally safe?”


“That spell took some effort, but yes, these undead were nothing to me.” William’s eyes were darker now, intense from the rage of battle. “We should be safe now, the spiders have been dealt with and destroyed.” His sword remained in hand, poised to strike again if another surprise was in store for them. After Frederick had caught his breath and tended to his scrapes and burns, he turned his attention towards the golden door that led to the rest of the ruin. 


“The door is beautiful… Ornate solid gold, carvings from what seemed to be very skilled artisans. Imagine how much a door like this would be worth!” Frederick tried to turn the golden knob, but after pushing and pulling he realized it was sealed shut. Frederick began to think of ways to get past the locked door, confident in William’s fighting abilities and the protection he provided. “With you in company, I believe we could explore the rest of these ruins safe from danger, relatively speaking of course. I will need some time to decipher the door’s secret, but now that the spiders have been killed, hopefully I will have ample time to work.”


“You do not already know how to open the door?” William inquired, a sharp edge to his voice.


“Sadly no. I’m hoping the door is easier to open than it appears, but I expect it will take some time. I apologize for the inconvenience but I promise it will be worth-”


“Do you know who I am, Mr. Gohm?” William spoke suddenly, his voice devoid of any emotion or indicator of his intentions. His facial expression was one Frederick had never seen before. As he turned towards William, he startled slightly upon seeing William. Before, William’s face was usually stern, but warm. Now, he was almost horrifying. He stared straight into Frederick, boring holes straight through his head. His face looked cold, any form of friendliness wiped clean. It almost felt as he regarded Frederick not only as a lower person than him, but like an ant that stumbled across his path. A feeling of great superiority radiated from the grand warrior.


Frederick struggled to speak for a couple moments but managed to blurt out a sentence or two. “Y-You are William, m-my friend. Of course I know who you are.” 


“You know nothing, and I am disappointed.” William’s face was unchanged. “My name is not something as simple as William. You know who I am. Tell me who I am.” His sword still sat in his hand, black blood dripping now from its tip onto the charred stone floor. 


Frederick’s mind began to race, desperate to meet this powerful warrior’s request. He had been tricked, lied to. This man in front of him was not William, but another strong warrior with impressive abilities. Should I know who this is? Am I supposed to know? I’ve never met anyone such as William. His abilities were without question more powerful than another other person he had met before. The way he acts as well, he seems capable of killing with nearly no effort. Is he famous? Does he consider himself legendary? Frederick began to think through all of the fantastical stories he had heard and read. “I-I have no idea who you may be. I could guess a name but I would surely be wrong. Who are you?”


“You have intrigued me Mr. Gohm. You are intelligent, and possess an impressive drive to explore and learn. I’m disappointed you couldn’t deduce who I am.” William spoke very matter-of-factly. “My name is Soleth Corlian.”


Frederick wished he had never gone into the elven ruins. He wished he had never hired the seven men he would eventually lead to their doom. He wished he had never met the man standing in front of him. He wished he had never traveled with him all this way. He wished he wasn’t here right now. He was full of dread. Standing in front of him was an absolute monster of a man, if you could even call him a man. No one dares to utter his name, to do so is said to bring dark omens. Frederick was standing face to face with a living legend. He wished he had never gone into these elven ruins. 


“The look on your face tells me everything. You recognize that name, as all should.”


“You are legendary…” 


“I will be, but not yet. This is not the first elven ruin I’ve delved into. The doors are still a mystery to me, but I have allies who are working to discover their secret. You showed promise, and I had hoped you could know what my allies do not. You are less impressive than I first thought.”




“You’ve done enough, you’ve led me here and for that I thank you. Every new ruin contains the potential for finding new clues to open these cursed elven doors. And hopefully this ruin will finally unlock the answer. I thought you had potential to help me further, to open this door and eventually join my team of scholars and investigators. But sadly, you lack a spine. You lack guts. You run from danger. I had thought you possessed some skill in acrobatics or magical trickery. But you do not. The only skill you seem to possess is an aptitude at knowing when to flee. While some find that useful, I view a skill such as that as cowardly.” Soleth’s words were said with an unnatural apathy, but they still hurt for Frederick to hear. He was being called a coward and there was nothing he could do. He had nowhere to run, and even if he did, it would be pointless. He could never imagine outrunning the power or influence of Soleth Corlian. He wouldn’t even make it a step or two before being destroyed. And he wouldn’t dare try to fight. His only hope was to listen closely and maybe talk his way out of his situation.


“You a-are right. I-I am cowardly. I do not have the strength nor the courage to face the dangers of this world alone. I’m sorry that I can be of no further use to you, but I am glad that even for a second I was useful to you.” Frederick smiled warmly. He believed that he had said the right things to maybe leave this place in one piece. But something deep in Frederick began to grow. Is this fear? Relief? No, this is different. I know what I want to say. “But, if you will have me, I will be more than happy to join you. My biggest strength is my intelligence, and I will gladly give you my intelligence. I can open this door eventually, I swear to you. Working with your team would be a dream of mine.” Frederick had more he wanted to say, but he paused at the sight of Soleth’s face. His face remained unchanged. He almost looked bored. Frederick realized his continued efforts would be in vain. His growing feelings of ambition were extinguished quickly. 


“My allies have no room for weakness. Everyone who works for me is adept in combat and can defend themselves adequately. My work involves secrets no one else can know. My team is devoted to me completely, and my secrets will die with them. I’m sorry Mr. Gohm, but you will not leave this place. We are the only two people who are aware of this ruin. And this secret will be mine and mine alone.”


Frederick thought nothing. His mind was empty. Other times when his life was threatened, he was always gripped with fear. But now even the dread he felt only moments before vanished as he listened to Soleth’s last sentence. As far as he was concerned, he was as good as dead. He stared death in the face, bloody sword in hand. “There is nothing I can do. I must die. And most unfortunate of all, I understand.” Frederick stared deep into Soleth’s eyes, hoping to see even an ounce of emotion behind his eyes. His gaze was met with eternal blackness. Soleth did not care for Frederick. This was simply what had to be done. 


“I only ask you make it quick, and painless.” Frederick lowered himself to his knees, bent his head down, and waited for the bloody sword of the reaper to bring him his end. He was utterly defeated. His friend William was not who he believed him to be. The powerful swordsman and spellcaster was not a hero. He was the living embodiment of advancement. Unhinged ambition that did not care for the death it must deal to achieve what it believed it could. Frederick had heard the stories of Soleth Corlian. Everyone did. And he was no hero. He was not William. 


“As you wish, Frederick.”


Frederick’s emptiness was instantly replaced with grief. His friend William, who he only knew for a short period of time, was gone. In his final moments, he wanted to speak to his friend William one last time. He glanced up towards Soleth and saw him begin to ready his sword for the killing blow. Soleth’s face was like stone, devoid of any meaningful expression. 


“I will miss you, William. Goodbye.” Tears began to well in the corners of Frederick’s eyes. He scanned Soleth’s face for an indication of his friend, or at least some emotion. Soleth met Frederick’s eyes, and for a second he believed could see his stern look soften ever so slightly. Soleth hesitated but only for a moment, sword raised high to strike. A subtle look of sadness flashed across Soleth’s face, and the tears begging to flow began to streak down Frederick’s face. But this moment was short lived, and as quickly as it appeared, the sadness quickly left Soleth’s face. 


“William is not my name.”


The blade cut cleanly through Frederick’s neck. It swept down from above, curving into a horizontal slice that ended Frederick’s life instantly. His body slumped to the side, limp and lifeless. His head rolled to the side of the room, coming to a stop at the side wall. Soleth took no time to grieve, for there was nothing to grieve about. He retrieved a cloth from his bag, wiped the black and red blood from his sword, and sheathed his deadly blade back into its dark scabbard. 


He took one last look around the destroyed chamber. The beautiful elvish designs carved into the walls were black with char. The furniture that once decorated the room were now thrown to the sides of the room, either charred or completely destroyed. The floor was stained with burnt black blood, with parts covered in fresh red blood. Frederick’s body was the only one not burnt to a crisp, his clothes and skin possessing only minor signs of fire. The golden door still shined brightly, its complicated design still possibly holding the secrets to the rest of the ruin. With a flick of his wrist, a brilliant blue bolt of lightning erupted from his left hand, striking the door straight on. Blue streaks of electric light reflected off the brilliant surface, and the door showed no signs of damage after the spell had ended.


Hmm… same as the others. Soleth frowned. I will need to summon part of my team here as well, hopefully they’ve made some progress on the others. He opened his bag and pulled out a scroll made of dark parchment paper. Unrolling it revealed a brilliant glowing text, symbols that no ordinary person could recognize. 


But Soleth Corlian is no ordinary person. He spoke the ancient dialect with perfect articulation, and as he spoke the final word, a grand portal opened in front of him. It was circular, tinted green, about 10 feet in diameter, and it appeared like a mirror in front of him. But rather than seeing his reflection, he could see his destination in front of him. His grand castle seemed to be right in front of his face, with its blackened stone and brilliant flag gently flowing in the wind. He tucked the magical scroll back into his bag, and strode swiftly into the portal. 


A second or two after he entered the portal, it slowly shrank until it closed. Soleth’s brilliant yellow light from above slowly faded, its connection to its caster weakening until at last, Frederick’s body was left to rest in the natural darkness of the elven ruin.