SECOND ROGUE, SECOND HOUR: AN EVERQUEST NOVEL
(Author's Note: This is my second try at an EverQuest novelization, and it will be far more complete than my previous effort, "Traitor's Hour!" *LOL* I fear that the novel on which my title is based, "Rogue's Hour", is still not very well-favored on Amazon.com! So, without further ado, "Second Rogue...")
Prologue: Execution and Exile
My name is Mylennia Ykeshina, "Myli" for short. I'm a rare breed among us Northmen, called Barbarians by ignorant (and sometimes not-so-ignorant) outsiders. That's because my father, Valaven Ykeshin, was a full-blooded Northman who had the good fortune (bigoted folk would definitely say misfortune) to fall in love with a beautiful Human Bard lass named Kareia and take her to Halas to live. It is from my mother that I received my singing voice, and from my father that I got my skills in battle. Our hometown of Halas, nestled amid the icy peaks of Everfrost, is founded upon one chief principle: justice. If ye break the law, ye know it, and then pay for it. No one is exempt from the watchful gaze of the Shamen of Justice, who serve a panel of six hooded deities collectively called the Tribunal. The Tribunal's acolytes act as executioner, judge and jury for all Northmen (and half-Northmen). Under their hand, the punishment always fits the crime.
If ye steal, you must make restitution to those that you have wronged. Failing that, if ye either have nothing or refuse to make amends, then you must serve a term at hard labor until your theft-debt is finally paid.
If ye sell yourself for carnal pleasure's sake, whether ye be man or maid, then you must spend a minimum of one month under the tutelage of High Priestess Margyn McCann at the Church of the Tribunal. She has never known any man that way, and she will teach ye the ways of self-discipline and chastity. Sure, she'll cure ye if you have any diseases from that sort of "negotiable affection", but such occupations always have their price.
If ye assault someone and they are seriously injured, then ye must spend as much time as they take to recover as their handmaiden or bondservant. If they need help eating because they lost most of their teeth, ye feed them. If they need assistance washing, ye soap them with diligence. Even if they need help making their way to the privy, you'll take them!
And, of course, if ye kill someone, ye die in turn. A life for a life. So say we, and so said the Shamen of Justice when I was only seven winters old. A man had killed another man in a tavern brawl (there were a lot of those in Halas, before almost all of the people left), and so he was duly sent before the block. "Kneel," ordered Executioner Asta. "Ye lost your head and murdered, Tom McQuirran, so ye'll lose your head again. Do ye have any last words to say to the people who've gathered around to watch you give your life for the sake of your crime?" Her shoulder-length golden hair shimmered in the sun, which stood in stark contrast to the pitch-black enamel platemail she wore.
"There was ale involved," begged Tom McQuirran, "ten steins of it apiece! Ye know how much we Northmen can gulp down. I couldn't hold my liquor, but that son of an ice goblin Seamus Fink could. He called my mother a filthy tramp, and that's the polite way to say it." He pressed his head to Asta's feet. "Please, Mistress Asta. Don't kill me. I made a mistake. I'll serve ten years at hard labor--twenty years! Thirty, if need be. Only have mercy!"
Asta turned to High Priestess Margyn, her soft green eyes full of doubt and sorrow. Tom McQuirran did indeed sound repentant for what he'd done, and besides, if someone called your
mother a series of unspeakable curses and you'd had far, far too much to drink, even for a Northman, wouldn't you consider those fighting words if not killing words to boot?
High Priestess Margyn finally spoke after what seemed an eternity. "Murder is murder, Executioner Asta. As for you, Tom McQuirran, you beg for mercy? Halas is not founded upon mercy. Don't you know its counterpart? Some folk would say that the opposite of mercy is cruelty or unkindness, but they'd be mistaken. The flip side of mercy is justice.
The law is the law, and our law states a life for a life.
If such a law is not upheld, then what does that say about us, proud Northmen and servants of the Tribunal? It would make us out to be fools at best and hypocrites at worst." She stepped back.
The execution drums began to roll, and I buried my face in my father's chest and started to cry. "It's not fair," I wept. "Can't they let him do hard labor?"
"I'm sorry, lass," my father said, "It's best not to doubt the ways of justice."
The drums rolled a second time. "I wish I could save him!" I wailed, though my words sounded more like muffled sobs than speech. Then I had an idea: I sprinted away from my father's side and toward High Priestess Margyn. I threw myself at her feet, wailing "Spare him, please!" for all I was worth. I wanted to make sure that not only she, but all of Halas, could hear.
"No, little half-breed chit," she said after she noticed me, and as the drums rolled a third time, rising in volume and timbre, she gave a sharp downward signal with her right arm that indicated to Executioner Asta what she was to do with her axe. Parrrr-rum!
I shut my eyes tightly, squinting back tears. Tom McQuirran was dead, and for all my efforts at the last minute, I could do nothing. Justice had been served, and would continue to be, always.
I was only seven then. I'm almost thirty now.
The rage that coursed through me at the hopelessness of going against the tide, the fury that consumed me as I fought wild beasts who bit me outside the City of Justice, and the passion I felt within my soul proved my salvation. I follow my father's ways, having more than a passing knowledge of the Warrior's art, but I formally follow the ways of my mother Kareia, as a Bard. Even as a Bard, I have pledged my fealty to the god of my father and his Northern Wolf guildmasters: Rallos Zek, the Warlord.
Please do not call me evil, although I know ye may. These years have taught me that justice
are two different things, and do not always go hand in hand. As for Margyn McCann, her Shamen, and their teachings: it is my belief that they and the fear they inspired are what truly drove all the adventurers and progressive citizens away from our fine city.
Just before I went into self-exile, I robbed the Church of the Tribunal, though what I took was only a drop in the wash-bucket compared to what it had earned through the tithes of us common people. I took eight kilons,
or eight thousand platinum pieces if you go by the more exact amount. I know what will happen now. High Priestess Margyn, and her servants Waltor Felligan and other Shamen of Justice, will chase me down and send me to hard labor: one year for every thousand platinum I stole. Thus, eight years.
I have fled, and thus I say: Fie on goodness! Fie on justice! Fie, fie, fie!