At the end of most heroic quests, after a plucky band of heroes has averted the apocalypse, all is well, and everyone lives happily ever after… (until the next book in the series.)
Now, for the first time, readers get an in-depth look into what really happens after the quest. This is the collected case file of the Grand Inquisitor’s investigation into the Misery Reach debacle. Read first hand as the participants try to explain their actions and make their case. Did the Demon Lord Krevassius really try to end the world just to impress a girl? Would everyone be better off if the Wizard Galbraith hadn’t invented a quest in order to stave off criticism? And what about an elf queen peeing on a Minotaur? A swordsman’s losing battle with a young raccoon? And the transvestite assassin with a heart of gold?
This is a fast, funny, and NSFW novel told by an intercutting set of narrators. It’s for anyone who loves an epic hero quest, but is also annoyed by the conventions of the fantasy genre. Think, World War Z meets The Office, meets Lord of the Rings.
Targeted Age Group:: 18 and above
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I got into the sword of truth series, which was slow going, at first, but once I got past the first little bit I was hooked along for the ride. It kicked off an extended streak of epic fantasy novels, and toward the end of the experience, when I was finally quitting midway more often than finishing a book, I found myself thoroughly annoyed at the names the characters were given. It never should have irritated me as much as it did, and probably wouldn’t have if not for the fact that I read so many in a single month. In any case, I thought to myself, Jesus, why isn’t there ever just the great swordsman Harvey? With that, the wheels started turning and I began the book.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
A lot of the characters started as very simple ideas, or single lines I wanted them to say, and they grew from there. For instance, the Wizard Galbraith started as only his list of rules for a wizard’s quest. The rest started to fill in from the other characters statements about him before he appeared, which were mostly off the cuff anyway. Most of my first drafts tend to be stream of conscious writing, characters included.
Testimony of Luthor Vonwick, Jailer in the 3rd Ring Dungeons at Hart Castle:
You’ve got to understand, I never knew who the guy was. That’s what people kept accusing us of, like we’d just got a wild hair up our butts and decided to bring him out to see the show. Like we were testing the king’s authority, or something. The King was the one who wanted him brought out of the dungeons in the first place. Everything we did we did at the king’s order. To the letter.
Except for the splinter.
But, like I said, I never knew who the guy was, so how could I know I should freak out if he stopped to grab himself a souvenir? Right? I figured he was going to be dead soon enough anyway, so what’s the difference if he wants to go holding a genuine piece of Sir Mallory’s lance? I figured he was a fan. And, honestly, the king’s orders said the prisoner is to be delivered unarmed. They didn’t say don’t take your eyes off of him for a second, he just might pick up a splinter, or maybe a tiny pebble.
You see my head? I got this wound today on the way here. I still get attacked in the streets. They call me an assassin. As if I planned it. People need to remember, the guy was shackled wrists and ankles, and he was tied to the jousting post. Ok… admittedly, we could have done a better job of tying him up, but it’s not like we were slacking. We didn’t know who he was.
Have you ever been in the 3rd ring dungeons? It’s dark in there. And not dark like night. Dark like you’re swimming in some kind of evil tar. I mean, the guy was practically blind. And he had to be light headed because you don’t get much oxygen down there. They say a dragon died at the bottom of the valley, and it was too big to move. And dragons don’t rot. They just sit and become stone. So the Hart lord built the castle on top of it. And inside the dragon, that’s where they built the dungeons. So the guy was inside a dragon for who knows how long? With no fresh air and no light, and because we didn’t tie down every inch of him, we must have planned it? No way.
You should have seen him when we dragged him out into the sunlight. He looked like a corpse. He was so sallow and gray, and he had these dark spots and circles all over him, like he had the plague. The minute the light hit his face he shrieked and tried to run back inside, but we kept dragging him, and the guy kept sobbing and moaning, and we left a trail behind us where his toes dug furrows in the dirt. The king saw all of this. And the king waved us on. I’m not enough of a genius to plan some way of getting the king to wave us on.
Now that I’m saying all of this—
Sober, I mean. I’ve probably said it the-gods-know how many times over the years, right before passing out in a tavern alley…
But I’m starting to think he was faking. The guy we pulled from the dungeons, I mean, not the king. The king was as fired up as I’ve ever seen someone about this guy getting run through with Sir Mallory’s lance. But if the sun was really like a burning poker to the guy’s eyes, then how did he see the splinter to pick it up?
Though, as far as splinters go, it was a damned wicked looking thing. Probably more like a quill, or a ladies dagger, than a tiny sliver of wood. But what were we supposed to think? I mean, it’s not as if he could pick the locks on his shackles with it. And no matter how wicked the splinter, Sir Mallory still had a lance. He was still mounted on his great black steed. And he was still covered head to toe in armor. And the prisoner was still tied to the practice post. So when we dragged the guy into the tournament square, hollering his head off about the sun and how it pierced his eyes…
When we dragged him through the remains of hundreds of massacred jousting lances, and he said, “Ooh! Wait a minute…”
When he struggled free of our grasp and picked one out of the bunch and smiled as he clutched it in his hand… We were just happy he’d stopped screaming.
Suddenly he was cooperative. Once he had his souvenir, he quieted down, and he didn’t need more than a gentle squeeze on the arm to get him moving again. I guess we let our guard down. But we still tied him to the practice post. And we did it firmly. I checked the knot myself before we left to join the crowd, see if we couldn’t get our hands on a mutton chop or two and maybe some flagons of ale. He was stuck there. And stuck good.
He could move his arms.
In hindsight, I should have secured his arms at his sides. That might have prevented everything. But his hands were still shackled together, and even if he could move his arms, so what, right? Because by the time we got hold of some ale and mutton sandwiches and had jockeyed to a spot where we could see the action, Sir Mallory was bearing down on him. His silver and white spiraled lance glinted in the sun and gave the illusion that it was spinning. He was fit to drill straight through the prisoner. And the guy couldn’t dodge it. Yeah, he could move his arms, but what good are your arms when a half ton of horse and steel are bearing down on you with a lance aimed straight at your heart?
I looked over my shoulder then, and the king was hooting and hollering and acting very un-king like. This wasn’t just punishment. And it wasn’t a show for the citizens, nothing to keep them in line. The king hated this guy. And maybe the king was too excited to see it, maybe his vision was clouded by images of the prisoner getting run through, his guts exploding out the other side, but the prisoner didn’t care. When I turned back to the action, right before impact, I could see the guy was still standing there calm as could be. He wasn’t shrieking about the sun. He wasn’t quaking in fear. He wasn’t crying, or praying. He was just smiling.
And fiddling with that splinter.
Adjusting it with his fingers.
And then the lance rammed straight through the guy’s stomach.
Sir Mallory missed.
I don’t know how the guy did it. Not tied there like he was. But somehow, he arched his belly to the side at the last second, and the lance whiffed right past him. I saw the blur of the shackles and chains, and heard the rattle of the metal as the guy whipped his hands out and back in again. Sir Mallory screamed like a lamb being slaughtered and dropped his lance. As he rode past I could see that wicked splinter sticking out from the slit in his visor. Somehow the prisoner had managed to stab Sir Mallory in the eye through a one inch slit as the knight raced past.
Sir Mallory fell off his horse, landing in a loud tangle. The bang and clang of armor filled the arena, mixing with his screams of pain. He was up again almost as quick, ripping the splinter free with one hand and his sword free with the other. He rushed at the prisoner, slashing at the guy’s stomach.
The king shouted a long, “Nooooooo!” but Sir Mallory didn’t hear him. The king went from cheering like a drunk on the night they invented ale, to trying to save the guy. It didn’t make any sense. And then I saw.
The prisoner repeated the slithery doge he’d used to avoid the lance, and the sword missed. At the same time his hands shot forward, and he rotated them, one over the other, and tangled the slack of his chains in the sword’s hilt guard. Suddenly Sir Mallory wasn’t holding the sword anymore. With a fancy spinning move, like a fool juggling fire sticks, the hilt was resting comfortably in the prisoner’s hands. He whirled it left and right, like he was warming up, and the ropes parted around him.
The prisoner stepped smoothly off of the practice post’s pedestal. The king hollered like a kid who has lost his favorite toy. The prisoner darted in quick, jabbing the tip of the sword through the same slit in Sir Mallory’s visor. The knight wiggled in place for a few seconds. His fingers twitched, and then the prisoner withdrew the blade and Sir Mallory dropped.
“Kill him!” the king roared, “Now! Kill him now!”
The whistle of crossbow bolts filled the air, and the prisoner tumbled forward, somersaulting beneath them. The king let out the last roar of frustration he would ever have as every bolt missed, thunking harmlessly into the dirt around Sir Mallory. The prisoner rolled onto his feet, flinging the sword forward. It whipped through the air, end over end, and stopped hilt deep in the king’s throat, pinning him to his throne.
When the king catches a sword in the throat, everybody looks. Everybody. Even the trained soldiers. Even the king’s personal guard. Not for long. Just a second to think, “Umm… Boss is dead.” But apparently it was all the guy needed, because after that second’s pause and the audience sharing a shocked gasp, everyone with a sword sprang into action, shouting, “Get him!”
But he had vanished. In that instant of misdirection it was as if he’d never existed.
And all eyes turned to me.
Testimony of Galbraith, the Wizard:
Keep in mind that no one has even seen a blood chalice in like five-hundred years. The last guy to hold one in his hands has been dead for ever. No one even knows what a blood chalice does! When I was at the university learning to be a wizard it was just one of those ambiguous whispered threats, like: “Blood Chalice! Ooh, sssspooky!” It was one of those items we swore Headmistress St. Pierce kept in her closet to catch her monthlies, and if she found you in the girl’s hall she’d curse you with it. Though, we had no idea how or exactly what that curse might be.
So, yeah, when that stinking crowd of bucktoothed backwoods villagers showed up throwing shit at my house, waving their pitchforks in the air, and shouting for my head, I might have winged it a little.
No. Do you have any idea how long it takes to cast a spell? And I’m not talking about some massive, earth shattering, split the crust and swallow a town kind of thing. I mean something simple, straightforward. Like levitating a glass of milk from one end of a room to the other, or lighting a candle with your mind. Do you know how long that takes? Weeks. Literally weeks.
Oh, sure, for the actual spell, for the action of the thing, it’s mere seconds. A snap of the fingers, a few words in obscure languages. But even those pathetic little parlor tricks take weeks of chanting and gathering energy and waving yew branches over holly smoke to set up. It’s ridiculous.
And if the rest of the world knew that, wizards would be tiptoeing around in constant terror, getting our asses kicked left and right. We’d be the slaves of anyone who can throw a stronger punch, which is everyone. But that doesn’t happen. And the only reason it doesn’t happen is because we’ve carefully cultivated our image over the years. Do you realize how much of my life is swallowed by hours of meditation and recitation and those damn yew branches and holly smoke? At any given moment I’ve got no fewer than five spells ready to let loose. Hence, the impression that I can call down a storm of lightning without the slightest provocation.
The upside is that no one tries to kick my ass. Except for a jackhole batch of villagers, but I can forgive them— for that— they had just been soaked by exploding bird goo after a week of their neighbors popping left and right with no warning, so I can suffer them a small freak-out.
The downside is that people think I’m all knowing, or something. Like I can just waggle my eyebrows and call down an answer to all of life’s questions out of the clouds. But, I didn’t have a divination spell ready and waiting at my fingertips just then. And you know what it would have told me if I had? Blood chalice. That’s it. Just the name. Not a description, not a picture. Just blood chalice. The spell would have written it in ashes on the wall of the fireplace. Know how I know that? Because once we’d set out on that dumb ass quest, I set to preparing the spell, and boom (I say that sarcastically, because talk about underwhelming…) what does it tell me? Blood chalice.
And no one knows what one does. Or how to work it. Or how to stop it. No one. No one. No one. No one!
Well, yeah, except for the guy that started it. That goes without saying. But other than him. No one. And he only knows because his stupid reach is built on top of all the damn instruction manuals. Talk about an advantage.
But I didn’t know that. I didn’t know the blood chalice still existed, or that the Demon Lord of the Misery Reach had activated it. All I knew was that a village full of angry people, who had apparently never met a bath they liked, was standing on my lawn, threatening me with bodily harm and demanding to know why this was happening and why I hadn’t stopped it. What would you have done? They’d already chalked it up to my absence at that damn dinner party, so I’m pretty sure that saying, “I don’t know, give me a week and I’ll get back to you,” was off the table. I could have melted them all, then and there. I had that spell prepared. But then what spell would I use to defend myself from the king’s soldiers when they came to find out why I’d melted a village for just for asking questions? I had to buy some time.
So I fibbed.
Ok, a lot. Yes, I invented a quest. But it’s not as if I could tell them, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got it figured out. It’ll be over in no time. Just go back home and curl up with a nice hot cup of tea. Maybe enjoy some nice leg of lamb.” Long before I finished the divination spell, they’d be back, demanding an answer, wanting to know why people were still popping. I needed a huge chunk of time.
And what takes more time than walking to Misery Reach? That’s rule number one of a quest. Especially a magical item quest. Seriously, there are rules. There’s actually a class at the university on it. One of my best classes. Yeah, I know, you wouldn’t think that based on the way this all turned out, but I aced that class.
Rule number 1: Always walk. If there are other ways of reaching your destination that are faster, safer, and more likely to ensure success, ignore them. Always walk.
Rule number 2: Always bring some nobody kid. Preferably a doof from the kitchen staff. Some innocuous little turd that everybody else picks on. Tell him he’s special, and make him carry that ever so important magical item.
Rule number 3: You need a swordsman. Best if he’s of questionable character.
Rule number 4: Vagueness. There are few things so important as being incredibly vague about what must be done and why. At no time should a wizard fully explain himself. It’s always advisable to keep your team members as close to completely in the dark as you can get.
And Rule Number 5: Bring along a friendly girl. Not really one of the ironclad rules. More just a personally rule. A recommendation, really. I can’t tell you how many quests throughout history have been derailed by the hero stopping to get some strange along the way. So I like to bring my own.
Testimony of Harvey, the greatest swordsman in the world:
I believe my father wanted me bullied. I think the endless harassment was his goal. I can think of no other reason one might name a child Harvey. Especially when he wanted me to be a swordsman. That much was obvious from the start. I was never meant to be a musician. I was never destined to awe or astound with naught but my voice and a lute. He’d been putting sharp edged instruments of varying sizes in my hands from the moment I first had the strength to grip them. But a man who knows he wants his kid to be a swordsman, also knows that swordsmen need names like Kartoth, or Strom, or Dakathor. Not Harvey.
You’re the Inquisitor General, so you have to have traveled, yes? I’ve traveled all over the place and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell a Harvey is. I’ve never met another Harvey, never even heard of one. Have you? Either of you? I’ve met plenty of Stroms. I’ve killed four of them. I once fought two Dakathors at once using a pen knife. I disarmed one of them with it, and I used his blade to kill them both. I dispatched a Kartoth with a very unripe banana. But I’ve still not met a Harvey. Not as a swordsman, or as a knight. And not as anything else. I thought maybe it was the sort of name you find on a blacksmith, or a stable hand. Eventually, I started hoping I’d at least find a latrine scrubber called Harvey, because that would explain why anyone who heard my name tried to take a knife to me.
But I think it’s just the name. A guy hears “Harvey, the greatest swordsman in the world,” and he wants to giggle. Or he wants to kill the Harvey for making him giggle. Because violent men do not giggle. It’s unbecoming.
Life was bad there for a while. Because there are a lot of bullies. Especially when you’re five. And there are a lot of places that don’t allow swords. Especially when you’re five. But all of the places that don’t allow swords still allow bullies. In order to survive, I had to learn to use anything at hand as a weapon.
I’m sure that was Dad’s plan, along with a bit of sadism mixed in. He never seemed to like me the way he did my shiftless younger brother. But mostly he wanted to make sure I never relaxed. He wanted me always prepared to disable someone with a head of cabbage, or a spoon. Though, I have no idea why.
Don’t rush me. Please. I’ll get to it. I just want you to understand that a lot of what happened on the wizard’s quest had to do with my name, in one way or another. Maybe not directly, but almost every poor decision I made can be traced back to what seems like a bottomless set of insecurities that all originate with my name. For instance, that terrible lava through the village incident. All because of a pissing contest between me and Galbraith. Galbraith. Now there’s a name. Man!
Ok, so where was I? Oh, right, the joust.
Testimony of Krevassius, Demon Lord of the Misery Reach, continued…
This is off the record, correct? Well, of course, it’s obviously on record. I can see your assistant here and his diligent note taking. But is it a public record? You aren’t planning to tack it to notice boards across the realms, or alert the town crier, or… share all the juicy details over a pint at the tavern?
I never set out to destroy the world. There’s no profit in it. If you wipe out everyone else, then you end up scrubbing your own toilets. I don’t want that. I hate scrubbing toilets.
I know that when taken as a whole, the course the curse took makes it seem as if I was trying to accomplish mass scale annihilation. But the apocalypse was not my intention. Well, no, it was I… I suppose. But not the way you think. Give me a moment; I’m making a mess of this.
There was this woman…
Testimony of the Sorceress Nestra:
Everyone I know assumes I was sentenced here. I am viewed as one of them. So, when I’m calm enough to sit back and see it through their eyes, I can understand why Krevassius might have chosen to woo me the way he did.
He could have done something as simple as giving me flowers, though, because I like flowers as much as the next girl. More, really, when you consider that I live in the Misery Reach. But once a person starts down the road of overwhelming displays of power it’s nearly impossible to step it back to something as simple as bouquets and chocolates.
Testimony of Illena Borovcheck, seamstress and girlfriend (of the wizard), continued…
My sister? Yeah, she’s a bitch.
Hey, like, I’m not trying to be uncharitable here, or anything, but do you have any idea what the holidays are like at my parents’ cottage? She skinned a guy alive. With her mind. She shucked him like an ear of corn and got sent packing to the Misery Reach.
Me, of course, I’m the whore; don’t ask about me. But, like, when my father talks about his, perfect little angel he’s still like, all, “I’ve got a daughter went to the university.”
She skinned a guy alive! And she started the end of the world. Ok, maybe she didn’t start the end of the world, but that didn’t stop her from jumping the guy in the middle of the desert as zombies rose all around. And I’m the whore.
Testimony of Tonray MacKillity, Matchmaker of the Misery Reach:
Oh, my friend, there are some business opportunities that present themselves gift wrapped and ready to make money. The Woman of The Reach was just such an opportunity.
Before the Sorceress Nestra arrived at the Reach, matchmaking pretty much boiled down to arranging private time between the Barbarian Zorch and Sitka the assassin. Long ago, Sitka hired a wizard to make him like look a woman so he could sneak undetected into the temple of nuns and dispatch the troublesome Mother Ellisa. Unfortunately, Sitka got caught before the wizard could reverse his work. Hence, the Barbarian Zorch’s fascination.
For years, that was my life. A gold coin here, a gold coin there, and a handwritten note saying hey, Sitka, got a minute? It was a simple business to run, but less than lucrative, which surprised me. Considering the barbarian reputation of raping and pillaging and always ready and raring to go, that even with only one customer I should have had a booming business.
Oh, my friend, I should have had a constantly revolving door as Zorch ran in and out wearing his wolf pelt loin cloths and horned helmets, thinking with either his prick or his sword, whichever he happened to have in his hand at the time. Between you and me, I think we know which one that would be. But Zorch was like a bear stocking up for winter hibernation. Months and months of no contact, and then suddenly he’d appear every day for a week straight shouting, “Bring Zorch Sitka, now! Woooomannnn!”
The man was the very picture of eloquence.
And, my friend, this caused problems you wouldn’t believe because Sitka felt that if he was stuck spending the rest of his life as the only remotely female creature in this hellish rock, doling it out to a dimwitted barbarian who’d glued hooves to his helmet instead of horns, then he at least deserved a little romance. He demanded that I provide some sweet nothings whispered in his ear. If you will, imagine the mangled remains of romantic platitudes flowing forth from Zorch’s silken tongue. Eloquence, as I said.
First I tried writing them down, but Zorch can’t read, something I should have realized before I spent all day transcribing one of my more brilliant verses of passion, if I do say so myself. So I tried to help him memorize it. I wasn’t giving him a novel or a five act play. I provided a manageable fifteen lines of glorious ardor and pure yearning put to rhyme, and after a full day’s work, Zorch managed to boil it down to the words, “Fart napkin.” As a result, Sitka felt he was entitled to half the take.
With those two words of spoiled poetry and one demand of payment, I was no longer a matchmaker. I was but a pimp.
And then the Sorceress Nestra arrived.
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