In the beginning there was fate, and there was destiny, but there was no free will.
When the world was created, the many headed serpent, the Hydra, wrapped itself around the world. It’s first head emerged at the beginning of all things, and a new head sprung up at the end of each era. Its final head stretched across time and space to the end of all things. From those vantage points it could see everything, and knew everything that had passed, everything that was now, and everything that would ever be. Learned men discovered how to read the scales on the great serpent, and through those scales they could learn their histories, and divine their futures. This is not their story.
This is the story of a young maiden, Thiandra, the peasant that she loved, Questor, the man she was betrothed to, King Elisedd, and King Elisedd’s older sister, Princess Demora.
When Princess Demora reached the age of adulthood, the royal sages read the scales to determine her fate. The scales said that she was filled with selfish desires and cruel intentions, and that she would never ascend to the throne. She would die at the age of one-hundred, still bitter at being denied her birthright, and envious of her younger brother. The princess was banished from the kingdom, and she journeyed to far away lands so she could raise an army to take the throne by force.
When King Elisedd reached the age of adulthood, the royal sages read the scales once more, this time to determine his fate. King Elisedd was to immediately take the throne. He would be a fair king, and prove himself a talented military commander. He would be victorious in many great battles, but would die in just ten years during a siege. He would marry a peasant woman, Thiandra, and the progeny of their union would alter the fate of the world.
At once men were dispatched to find Thiandra, and to bring her to the palace so she could be prepared to become queen. They found Thiandra on the eve of her wedding to Questor. She had loved Questor since they were children. In a few moments a lifetime worth of dreams were shattered, and broken-hearted she submitted to her fate. Questor, ever defiant, refused to submit to the serpentine prophecies. He vowed to leave at once, and to find the place where the scales intersected at the Hydra’s origin, and he would speak with the body’s first head. He would demand the Hydra change the prophecy so he and Thiandra could be wed, and if it refused he would slay the beast so their fate would be their own.
For years Thiandra waited for Questor to return to her victorious, and all that time she made up excuses to postpone her wedding to King Elisedd. When five years had passed with no word from Questor, she asked the royal sages to read the scales and tell her Questor’s fate. The royal sages said that Questor had traveled across many lands and oceans, and soon he would find the place of the Hydra’s origin at the intersection of the scales, and that he would die at the hands of the beast.
Devastated Thiandra went to King Elisedd and confessed everything about her love for Questor. She begged her betrothed to do something to save her beloved.
Since he was destined to die in a siege in five years time, and not while battling the Hydra, King Elisedd agreed to help her. He put together an army of five thousand, which was nearly half the kingdom’s military. The sages read the scales to determine Questor’s route, and using it as a map they rode off to face the Hydra and save him, and Elisedd’s betrothed, Thiandra, rode at his side.
When they reached the lair of the Hydra, eight heads emerged and attacked the army. The Hydra heads proved themselves a superior force, but King Elisedd commanded brilliantly, and in time several heads were severed, however with each head that was cut off, two more emerged.
As the sun began to set on the battle’s fifth day, Elisedd’s army had been reduced to a quarter of its size, and the royal sages informed the king that the time of Questor’s death was approaching, and he would be dead before stars appeared in the sky.
Elisedd called on his personal bodyguard, the kingdom’s twenty greatest warriors, and he told Thiandra to take them into the Hydra’s lair and retrieve Questor before he died.
When Thiandra entered the Hydra’s lair, she found Questor bleeding on the ground, and the body of the Hydra and a single head loomed over him. Thiandra ran to Questor to be with him in his final moments, and Elisedd’s bodyguards attacked the beast. The bodyguards were quickly killed and devoured as Questor died in his lover’s arms. Distraught, Thiandra took Questor’s sword and thrust it into the chest of the beast. The Hydra’s heart was pierced, and it gave out a shrieking wail before it shriveled and died.
Thiandra was free of her fate now, but Questor was dead. She would never wed, and never be queen, and she would always love only Questor.
As the beast died King Elisedd noticed its severed heads lived. They were worming their way into the world, no longer constrained by destiny, and eager to write some new future. King Elisedd ordered his men to gather up the heads and encage them.
There is a legend that a thousand years before the reign of King Elisedd, a hundred blacksmiths and artisans were conscripted into the kingdom’s army as a single company. They were assigned a post at the front line of an important battle, but afraid for their lives they fled their position and retreated into the forest. Because of their desertion, thousands of soldiers died. The company, unable to return home, wandered hoping to find some foreign land, but all had died of exposure and starvation after fifty days. For their cowardice, their souls were forever damned.
King Elisedd had his army take the heads of the Hydra to a great castle on a coastal cliff in the far reaches of his kingdom. There he made some dark pact, and the company of blacksmiths and artisans were raised from the depths of hell to do his dark work. They were given the heads of the Hydra, and told to work their hides into a collection of polyhedral shapes, and then to carve numbers in their faces. They would be randomizers, or dice, and with the complete set Elisedd could decide the future and write the world’s fate.
They toiled for almost five years to finish the project, but as they neared completion Princess Demora arrived at the castle with a foreign army. King Elisedd took arms along with the small force that had remained with him, and they desperately tried to hold the castle long enough for the final die to be finished, for then he’d be able to write the outcome of the battle, and anything else he wished.
Unfortunately Princess Demora’s forces were too great. In hours most of Elisedd’s men had been slaughtered, and he was mortally wounded. Siege engines were being deployed against the castle walls, and soon they would break through the last bit of resistance between him and his older sister.
Afraid of what would happen if the dice fell into the hands of his wicked sibling, King Elisedd spent the last moments of his life throwing the dice into the ocean, so that they would be carried away by the sea. The dice, the progeny of King Elisedd and Thiandra’s union, are now separated, but they’re still around. During the most important periods of history some find their way into the hands of heroes and villains. They alter outcomes, change destinies, and write the future.
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