Webcomic teaser – “The Saga of Otto”
Remember back at the end of December, 2011 when I said I was working on a webcomic? I still am. In the interrim, I’ve found an artist (whose name will be revealed once I upload everything), fleshed out a good deal of world-building information, plotted a few chapters, created a detailed script of one, began the script of another, etc. As usual, being a college student may slow down progress, but it’s still something you should look forward to.
Anyways, as part of the overall publicity machining, I’ve written a short story (although not ‘Ghetto Fantasy‘ short) that could give you some insight into the nature and tone of what I intend to do. Hope you enjoy it.
Tyrants were supposedly something you had to accept.
A man in a shack that he would describe as ‘rustic’, and that others would describe as ‘crappy’ was writing an essay on the virtues of primogeniture, and the failings of military dictatorships. It wasn’t going well, especially since he was a stickler for calligraphy; every letter had to be exactly formed, and the cold that seeped in was making it ever more difficult to get them right.
At this point, the man’s eyes shifted towards the paragraph that formed the cornerstone of his argument:
“While we know very little of the gods, we do in fact know that they were ordained by almighty Ancien, who knows all and is all, and that since his judgement is right, the gods’ positions are absolutely and utterly correct. We also know that they often ordain a king or queen to suit their interests. Since their positions are always correct, those who they ordain must also be entirely correct. However, a tyrant who takes control of a country by force, whether it be the duchy of Ostrolansk, or my own beloved Vaeringjar; may its glory last for all eternity, has the support of no gods, and therefore is simply a HERETIC.”
By my standards, this was a pretty crappy piece of political philosophy to come from anyone, anywhere. But I’ll admit the man was trying.
At this point, the man’s son came into the shack, allowing a burst of winter air to agonize his father further and slow the writing process.
“You’re working on that essay again?” asked the son.
“I always am, Otto,” the father responded. “I need the process of writing so that I can marshal my thoughts, and form something coherent with which I may form the seed of good will.”
“You do realize that if you publish that essay, you’ll be killed, right?”
“My life is nearly over as it is. If ideology necessitates sacrifice, then I shall certainly sacrifice my last few years so that others may live better.”
“… I see.” Otto looked vaguely uncomfortable at the thought of his father’s mortality. He had nothing to say, and he shuffled out of the cabin. Because it was winter, there was no real work that he could do, and so he headed to a friend’s home with intent to load up on cheap beer. In this, he succeeded. Now, it may have been due to the intoxication, or very possibly fungus growing on the grains used to brew the beer, but Otto soon had a vision of the entire Lower Pantheon standing in front of him. Most people were expected to see one or two in their lifetime, but when they all appeared, you had either done something horribly wrong, or you were about to be assigned an impossible task.
“What do you guys want?” Otto’s speech was surprisingly fluent considering his intoxication.
“You know, we’ve been thinking a lot. Could you relay a message to your father claiming that if he publishes his essay, the ground will drop out beneath society?” said Chasma, the earth god. As if to provide a visual metaphor, Otto soon found his surroundings disappearing, leaving him floating in an abstract void. Eerie symbols and geometric patterns formed and disappeared around him.
“Uh…” His diction was better than his semantics.
“I mean, it’s not like our continued existence depends on anyone, but if the people grow too attached to their kings, society will freeze and collapse. And that would be rather uninteresting in the long run,” Ignis, the fire goddess informed him.
“Personally, I think this guy needs a lot more context and a bit less alcohol in his body. Expecting him to understand us with his current background and state may result in cognitive dissonance,” added Verne, who had an obsession with rationality and logic.
“Can’t you just tell him yourself?”
“He lacks the ability to astrally project, or get staggeringly drunk.”
“Okay, fine, I’ll tell him, if I’m not too hung over in the morning. That essay is his livelihood, though, and if I take it away from him, he’s just going to keel over and die, you know?”
“Meh,” was the overall response of the gods.
“There is one alternative, though.” At this point, Vir stepped forwards, and since Vir was a rather odd fellow, he spontaneously conjured a lump of protoplasm that began sprouting fangs and armor plated skin at an alarming (i.e perceptible) rate.
“You could remove the need for politics by simply killing the tyrant which he lobbies against. Then, you’d get to keep your dad around for a few more years and fulfill his goal for him. How’s that sound to you?”
“Humans are complicated. This is a very simple suggestion,” sneered Verne.
“How am I going to kill him? He has tons of guards and stuff.”
“We have tools just for this case. You will need to develop your skills to adequately use them, but they should give you a fighting chance against Lord Veldi’s armies,” Sakusei (a nice lady who represented human creativity) offered. Suddenly, Otto found himself wearing a full suit of armor and wielding a razor sharp longsword.
“Nice, isn’t it? I, Krasa, put the inscription on the sword myself,” said the aforementioned god. Otto didn’t like the way Krasa was looking at him, and mentally made a note to refer him to a friend who was allegedly into that sort of thing.
“Of course, you’re going to have to find it. I think we’ll leave it a nearby mountain shack; hard enough to reach without being too strenuous for you. But you’ll have to be quick, lest a passing stranger finds it,” Krasa continued.
Otto just looked even more confused.
“Will you kill that abomination already?” shouted someone in the back. Vir’s lump of protoplasm had turned into the monstrous equivalent of Catdog, and the front end’s eyes were beginning to morph into elephant tusks.
“Bokall, if you can’t appreciate a good life form, then you’re an idiot,” Vir responded. Bokall just punched him in the face. The rest of the gods moved to restrain the two from hurting each other further, and Otto woke up surprisingly cognizant, albeit with light hypothermia in a pile of snow.
“Maybe I should just ignore this quest and try to calm my father in other ways,” Otto muttered to himself. Then, he stood up, and found that he was in eyesight of a heavily fortified castle.
“I forgot that Lord Veldi gets a castle, and us peasants get a crappy shack… How was that even acceptable?” Otto suddenly had a vision of the aforementioned mountain shed, and began walking in that general direction. Maybe he should’ve looked for breakfast first.
After a few days, Otto’s father began to worry about his son. Eventually, he came to the conclusion that Otto had possibly been abducted by Lord Veldi’s secret police and somehow penalized for what may or may not have been an offense against the state. After a few moments of intense fear and grief, he resolved to finish and publish his essay, and even the intense cold failed to infringe on his writing.
Otto, on the other hand, was about as healthy and happy as possible as a religious pilgrim in the frozen northern reaches of Vaeringjar could be. He had a small amount of money on his person, but earned most of his food by hunting for it. It’d dawned upon him that his journey was not truly motivated by divine intervention, but more by jealousy. However, he’d stopped caring about this very quickly, especially as the cold and his lack of winter wear caused much of his brain’s idle speculation to shut down. Eventually, almost frozen solid, he found the cabin which the gods had informed him of. It too, was also in the process of reaching absolute zero, but it was furnished with kindling and a fireplace. Otto’s body temperature soon reached non-critical levels, at which point he took in his surroundings. There was a trapdoor in the floor; he levered it open, saw a glint of something metallic.
A suit of medieval armor and a sword; the Lower Pantheon had not lied. Out of curiosity, he decided to put it on. Considering that Otto had no training as a soldier, this was a difficult process, and at one point, he had the breastplate on backwards and the gauntlets on his feet. He eventually figured it out, and found it implausibly lightweight and comfortable. Then, he tried operating the sword; it was also easy to heft and swing, but otherwise harder to use, and he ended up hitting himself in the leg with it at significant, flesh-rending velocities. This made it especially lucky that he was wearing armor.
“I don’t get it. How is this supposed to be good enough to take on an army of darkness?” Otto said to nobody in particular. Naturally, nobody responded.
Feeling somewhat richer, albeit still gypped, he began the long trek home. His village was surprised to find he wasn’t dead a few weeks later, and many strangers tried to impress upon him the magical powers of his armor for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to Otto. And so, he began training.
As the winter came to an end, being replaced by a short weak spring, Otto found himself unlocking powers at a rate that would put level grinding in an RPG to shame. When the snow finally left his bones, he’d gained considerable martial prowess, and magical shielding that would parry any blade faster than Otto could comprehend.
“You’ve become awfully proficient with those artifacts as of late,” his father told him one day. “Are you planning to rightfully restore the monarchy?”
“Yes, and better. I’m going to get rid of everything that threatens this realm, and become a full on hero. And then I can live in a cushy castle with plenty of wenches to wait on me, and then… and then…” Otto trailed off for lack of forethought.
“The gods have sent you on a quest. You would do well to embark upon it soon, now that you have the necessary competence to perform it,” exposited his father. About now, Otto realized that the villagers were expecting a great deal of him. It took him a few days more to plan, but eventually, his father woke up to find Otto’s bed empty, his few possessions gone. If Otto were literate, he would scrawl a note giving explanation, but given the last few days, his intent was easily implied.
Lord Veldi had begun to construct gardens for the castle he had conquered. They were intended to grow produce for the castle’s servants, reducing food costs, stabilizing the government’s debts, allowing for further economic growth. It was a pragmatic decision, but Veldi prided himself on being a pragmatist. It was a good thing he was in control of the country; otherwise it might’ve imploded from mismanagement in a few years. He took a walk through the castle; its architecture was sublime, but how its builder had been able to afford it, short of slave labor, was highly questionable. He decided to ask the recently deposed monarch, who was confined to a (admittedly well furnished) small room in the basement.
“You can’t do this to me! I’m a king! I have the god ordained right to rule this country,” he said, ignoring Veldi’s questions about the finance. Every day for the last few months had been like this.
“Why don’t they try to reinstate you? They certainly could if they wished, but unless they do so, you must consider yourself a governor in exile,” snapped Veldi at the monarch, his words carrying an unusual burden considering Otto’s impending arrival. “Have you ever wondered why I never took your crown from you? Now it is little more than a small ingot of gold and a few gems waiting to be reprocessed.”
At this point, one of Lord Veldi’s lieutenants rushed into the room.
“Sir! It’s an emergency! The ‘chosen one’ the villagers spoke of has arrived, and he’s already effortlessly slain the advance guard sent to dispatch him!” the lieutenant gasped.
“Fool! The gods have indeed sent someone to liberate the kingdom from your tyranny! Now you will suffer eternal damnation-” said the king. He looked as if he could go on in this vein for some time, but Veldi simply grabbed his lieutenant’s sword, and promptly stabbed the king in the head, deposing him and making his son the ‘rightful’ heir to the throne.
“What an idiot. I think I’ll use his crown to make a ring for my son, amongst other things.” Then, Veldi turned to the lieutenant. “I admit I was not expecting the advance guard to die so quickly. Tell your defenders to guard as if this were a siege, and as if the gatehouse were destroyed.” The lieutenant’s eyes visibly bulged at this, but he accepted Veldi’s order and rushed to inform the castle’s defenders of what to do.
Otto was calmly trudging towards the castle, walking as if he were severely encumbered by the armor. It was an act of deception, and it had worked very well on the lightly armored soldiers who had attempted to gang bang him. He did figure the resistance would be slightly more competent by the time he reached the castle, but it was nothing that he couldn’t handle. Now, the walls were in view, now he was walking towards the gatehouse, now the defenders were going to attempt to pelt him with arrows-
Now, Otto was lying dead on the drawbridge, holes in his armor revealing something entirely new – gunshot wounds. The most important of these had hit him in the face, tearing up his brain and instantly killing him. After a minute or so, another volley of gunfire rang out – apparently the fact Otto was lying on his back in an ever growing pool of blood wasn’t enough proof that he had died.
“My god, these things smashed through the gods’ armor like it didn’t exist!” shouted one of the gunners.
“Does this mean their power is fading?” another asked.
Meanwhile, in what was most assuredly an alternate dimension, the Lower Pantheon was viewing the scene as if through an internet stream. There was much wringing of hands and many grunts of consternation.
“We have got to keep up with the times,” said Verne, who seemed most affected by the oversight.
“I wasn’t expecting him to just crumple up and die like that,” he added after some time.
“If he’d known about these ‘gun’ things, he might’ve destroyed the defenses and slain Lord Veldi. They take forever to load and don’t work in the rain,” quipped Sakusei. “…I think I need to appear at a blacksmith’s now.” And she suddenly disappeared. An overall change in the tone of murmuring suggested that the Lower Pantheon had all sorts of business to attend to, and the congregation broke up. Meanwhile, the Veldi family went on to make Vaeringjar a leading force in international affairs, while other nations lagged behind.
“You just added that last bit in yourself, didn’t you?” asked Niles Vogelmann over 200 years later, after his companion, Jaffendal Apadox told him a highly compressed, mythical version of Otto’s exploits (or lack thereof).
“Nah, I have no real objection to monarchy as a form of government; the guy who told me the story, on the other hand…” Jaffendal trailed off. Then after giving the manner some brief thought, he began a new trail of thought.
“You know, our old friend Slick Eddie probably got a different version of the tale where the father’s tract is treated as some cosmic revelation. It explains his policies as a ruler, and we’d be a lot better off if he wasn’t an idiot,” he muttered.
“What can you do about it?” That story had shaped lives for centuries and would continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It may have warped Jaffendal in strange ways.