Legend Of Xalen D Marek

From an early age, the aristocrat Xalen d’Marek was an avid reader. He liked stories of all kinds, but the bestiaries of explorers, their meticulous travel journals, and their varied philosophical musings grabbed him far more than the florid tales of princesses or the plush country estate where he lived. His parents were mostly delighted with their only son’s keen intelligence, and hired the best tutors and sages their gold coin could buy.

“Surely,” his father often said with hope, “my son will soon look upon politics and warcraft.” He knew men and their plots were far greater mysteries to unravel than the alchemy of dragons. However, Xalen’s focus never wavered. At age twelve he built a laboratory that over the years would ultimately grow more sizable than the main house.

One afternoon, a servant girl named Amathea came and stared at this lad. They stared at each other oddly for a good ten minutes. He told her to go away.

At seventeen, the army called. Xalen was furious at first. For days he locked himself in his laboratory or its library annex.

“Son,” his father explained from outside the locked door, “military service will be an introduction to cultures and kingdoms beyond your own.”

“Will there be dragons, or chimera, or naga spirits?”

“I saw one or two,” his father answered truthfully. “Armies travel far. Seven owlbears we took one evening. And nearby was a cave with eggs, the very ones over the mantlepiece.”

“In that case, I shall go!” Xalen announced with excitement, flinging open the door. He had never felt closer to his father, nor more excited to leave the estate.

“Enough of books!” he told his mother, who was greatly disappointed, for what mother wants to lose her son to a sword or a dragon’s gullet? At least with books and beakers he usually came to the dinner table.

A month later, a carriage came for Xalen. His parents and the staff stood to wave goodbye. There was Amathea, now with full breasts and porcelain skin in an apron. He did not know what to make of her smile at him, and stumbled into the carriage.

Xalen reported for duty and volunteered for far travel, which in due time reaffirmed his passion. Besides dragons, his men fought wolves with tentacles, floating mists that drew blood, and other monsters he had never imagined. Besides staying alive, nothing motivated Xalen the Monster Hunter like a tooth or scrap of hide. With his pay he skipped the carnal night houses and paid to ship home his trophies to someday examine. After four tours of duty, he retired.

“Oh son, you are home at last!” his mother cried as he stepped from his carriage to the old estate. She added, as she took him in for tea, “I am sorry your father did not live to this day, but you shall make his estate proud.”

Xalen had waited years to unpack his crates. No sooner was the house asleep then he crept to his old laboratory for a peek.

“Oh, this sorry place will not do,” he said shaking his head. The old lab was childish and cramped. It needed renovation.

Even as carpenters came and went, he worked in his lab day and night to unlock the puzzles scribed in his military journals. He had now inherited the estate but took little interest in it. He preferred to fund expeditions to new lands, construct magical devices, and service charities to keep quiet his aging and bored mother. He devised magic to locate any treasure so long as he could describe it well, and to shrink said treasures, to carry many, even dozens, at once while evading traps, bandits, tax collectors, and inquisitive colleagues.

For three score years, Xalen collected and published. He was the envy of imitators who snickered at his poor hygiene, curious tastes, and odd habits acquired from strange lands.

Though he never married, Xalen was close with his sister’s bright nephews. And he enjoyed Amathea’s doting. Over the years, he let go of all of the servants except her.

“I am going on a last adventure,” he told Amathea one morning. “I shall be gone three months and then I shall remain here forevermore, and the time of books and beakers will be done.”

Amathea was privately pleased. “How long I have waited as a spinster,” she confided to her best friends.

In three months Xalen returned, though this time with nothing in his hands. Only he and his ogre sideman had survived the dread tomb of an evil lich that could crumple a man into a small brimstone like Xalen could crumple up paper.

“Did you destroy it? Did you?” his nephews asked excitedly?

“Oh no, much better than that. I discovered a secret.” He indicated his brow. “My treasure is in here.”

Indeed, Xalen had uncovered a key to eternal life, and by this he did not mean to become an evil lich. He had learned a way to free his mind, to explore every mysterious object, location, person, and piece of lore in the multiverse, even many at once, without ever leaving home! So many tantalizing potential possibilities! Unfortunately, this path could free only him and no one else.

“Please know,” he told Amathea as she brought him tea the next day, “I will always be here watching over you.”

“Don’t be dour, Xalen,” she said, and smiled with love. “We have many years left in us.” Behind her smile, however, she wondered why he had not yet proposed to her.

One misty morning soon after, she and his nephews found only a will and a vacant lab. Following the will, Amathea lived out her days on the estate, some say in quiet sorrow.

Xalen watched Amathea and his nephews from a distance, from a gray netherworld of spirits to which he had transported himself. He was beyond heavens and hells in a place that should not exist. At first, in this gray place, he saw nothing. Soon he spied tiny floating windows, which he could peer through to watch the world. After Amathea’s death, and after his nephews had departed too, he entertained his mind and distracted his lonely heart for decades through these windows, and various puzzles and riddles he remembered from his childhood.

One day, a magic user called a binder summoned him. He heard someone shouting his name. Suddenly, he saw the world through the grizzled man’s eyes, as if riding within him. He saw, heard, and felt as the man did. It was so exciting! But at night the man retired to pursue his loves, discarding poor Xalen’s spirit back in the cold gray of nothing.

After centuries, with the puzzles and riddles old and tired, the ache of something missing haunted Xalen. Who returns from nowhere? he wondered with regret. Amathea’s absence after millennia slowly drove him into depression and then madness. Which some might say is where he started from.

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