Once upon a time…
The forces of evil converged on the tiny hamlet of Glebe-Elnar. The tiny little town consisted of one tavern, a town hall, a statue so old and worn that nobody could recall for whom it was erected, the root shack, and several pig farms in the surrounding boggy plains. One could say that its relative strategic and economic importance to the realm was somewhere above non-existent but still below measly… everyone loves bacon!
Three generations before the time of Galen the Gray – in the first shade of Winter – mercenary forces marched from West to East, intent on sacking the port city of Yap. Another horde travelled from Northeast to Southwest. It happened that the two groups met at Glebe-Elnar. Both groups bristled and taunts were made. The leaders then engaged under a flag of truce. Meanwhile, a certain number of pigs went missing, but the locals were too afraid to raise any accusation of theft. In the end, the two rampaging armies joined forces and proceeded East, which is why the port city of Yap is no longer on the map. Of course, no blame for this was ever ascribed to Glebe-Elnar.
One generation after the fall of Galen the Gray a torrential rain besieged the entire region. Nothing much happened. One pig drowned. One villager drowned as well, but the pig was more sorely mourned on account of the villager having been a complete twit.
Two generations after the fall of Galen the Gray, in a gentle misting of Spring rain, hellish hierarchies once again converted upon the hamlet, though this time in markedly smaller numbers. Two. The number of evil was two.
A large, cloaked figure entered the tavern. He trudged across the dirt floor with heavy tread. All the while muttering under his breath right up until he plopped himself down to quiet contemplation. The barkeep stayed back, waiting for some sign that his patron wanted service. This was only his side job so he didn’t feel the need to push the issue. Primarily he was a pig farmer, although he considered himself more of a pig baron, having partial ownership in several nearby pig farms.
In due course, a lanky fellow came jangling in, plates of armour chimed off each other as he walked directly to the booth. The larger man signalled the barkeep who promptly brought two wooden cups and a pitcher of mead. After a slight pause, during which the two men said nothing, the barkeep retreated behind the bar, making a point of keeping himself busy as though he was not paying attention – even though he was.
The larger man poured generously into the two cups, “Tis not often I get an invitation from a prince for a sit-down. Most hoity-toity types ain’t got the stomach for the likes of a half-orc mercenary.”
The taller man scoffed and took his cup, “First of all, my title is self-bestowed through more violence and treachery than such types could manage. And second, by reputation, you’re more of an assassin than a mercenary. And the way I hear it, you are more like three-quarters orc with the other quarter in question.”
Laughing loudly, exposing a broad smile of uneven, bulky teeth, the large man leaned forward, instantly serious, “looks like you’ve pegged me, dark prince.”
The prince also leaned forward into the dim light of the table’s candle, showing the rippling scars down the left side of his neck, chin, and cheek, “Never one for manners were you, Mr. Grimfang?”
Another chuckle, “Very few pleases and thank yous are needed when you’re cutting a man’s throat.”
Leaning back again, the dark prince considered the brute, “I do hope you can do more than slit a man’s throat, or I’ve wasted my time.”
“I can bash in a skull.”
The prince nodded.
“I can crush a man’s ribcage.”
The prince nodded.
“I’ll slip in a bit of poison when the situation demands.”
The prince sipped his mead and shrugged, not at all impressed.
“I can run a man through like he was made of butter.”
“I can decapitate a man in one swing, unless he be really tall. Then it’s at a funny angle, so it usually takes two swipes.”
“If I must, now I ain’t sayin’ it’s a keen interest of my own, but I can open a man up and leave him alive for a bit, torture-like.”
Fingers interlaced, the prince leaned forward, “You do love to boast, Mr. Grimfang, but I need the other thing. The darker thing.”
“That’ll cost you more than you’d like to give up.”
The two men stared at each another. Grimfang drained his cup and poured another. The prince did the same. Grimfang motioned for the barkeep to bring more, and both men sat in silence as the empty pitcher was replaced with a full one.
“Can you really do it; kill a man and burn his soul in the process, reducing his eternal essence to nothing?” the prince enquired.
“Aye. Tis not a common service, and it…exacts a high price. I am one of the few to have mastered the kill of all kills.”
The prince refilled his own cup, and Grimfang could have sworn there was the slightest tremor in that hand. The man was getting on in years, but still, this was the hand that had slain kings and queens. The dark prince had brought mighty generals and legions to their knees. His hand was unaccustomed to trembling.
“Does such a kill require any preparation?
Grimfang shook his head, “Nay. Tis simple enough and more a matter of the rest afterward.”
“Name your price.”
“You won’t pay it.”
After another drink, Grimfang said carefully, “I hear that you possess a trinket. The Secret Seal of Solomon. Legend is you wear it all the day long and all the night through, on account of its powerful protection charm. Might even be how you so uncannily done risen to your esteemed title, such as it is.”
The prince nodded, raising an eyebrow “So that is your price? You seek the seal, as so many others have?”
More chuckling, “Aye, if I’m to deal with the dark prince, may it be a big deal, eh?”
With very little pause, the prince simply said, “Done.”
Grimfang spluttered and choked on his drink. He slammed his massive fist on the table several times while he cleared his throat, sounding more like a water buffalo than a skilled killer. He waved off the bartender’s approach and considered the prince carefully while regaining his breath. There was no hint of humour or doubt in the long face.
Grimfang looked squarely at the prince, “Who?”
Fortunately, Grimfang had not taken another swig, or he would have had to repeat the whole noisy process again. He sat dumbly and stared across the table in the half-light.
“As soon as the deal is struck. On this, I must insist. Once the deal is made, you must do it immediately. Understood?”
Grimfang nodded, thought a moment, then ventured, “Why?”
The prince sighed, “I believe it best you don’t know. Are you having second thoughts?”
“I never back out of a deal,” came the huffy reply, “Hand over the seal and I’ll do you right on the spot.”
“Right, let’s get this over with,” the prince rose to his feet, the shock of black hair on his head brushing the low rafters. From within the neck of his shirt, he tugged a necklace, pulling free a circular pendant that filled the palm of his hand and glistened in the firelight.
Grimfang looked wary and solemn, “Alright then, hand it over, yer highness.”
“No hesitation. Are we clear?”
“A deal’s a deal.” he shrugged, quickly scanning the room for some sign of treachery or trap.
The prince yanked on the amulet, causing the chain to snap at the back of his neck. He thrust it forward into the waiting hand of Grimfang, yelling, “Now, man. Do it now!”
The centre of the room erupted in ominous red and yellow light, and a circle of flame inscribed itself on the floor. From within the circle rose a cackling orange-skinned beast in the shape of a man, though it sported curling horns about its head and threadbare wings hung folded at its back. A yellow smile that seemed wider than the face upon which it stretched greeted the patrons and the barkeep.
A silky voice emanated from the creature, though its mouth did not move, “Little prince, you crafty fool. All this time and now here you are, exposed. Your soul over-ripe for the taking.”
Grimfang stood slack-jawed, the amulet warm in his hand. The barkeep passed out and fell over behind the bar.
“Now!” The prince showed a flash of fear on his face, a face that had been impassive before countless duels, battles, and even a few trials.
Grimfang swiftly pulled a dagger from some unseen sheath, holding it level towards the beast. The candlelight flickered about its serpentine blade and angular facets. The creature took a step towards them, long arms sweeping such that its claws scraped the floor.
“Not against it, you fool. Kill me now!”
Grimfang plunged the dagger into the prince’s gut. Though his large hands looked clumsy, they were in fact quite skilled and threaded the blade through the plates of armour to meet flesh. As he felt it sink deep, Grimfang spared a glance for the creature now raising its arms high, glowing yellow eyes trained maliciously on the prince. Under his breath, he said the words required, willed his essence to complete the spell, and white light erupted from the stab wound.
The creature paused. Grimfang tumbled back in the midst of a tiny maelstrom of unearthly wind and light. The prince, a triumphant smile on his face, caught fire with a blue flame that clung closely about his body for a fraction of a second before consuming him to white ash that fluttered down like a waft of snow.
Grimfang scrambled to his feet, amulet in one hand and dagger in the other. The creature stood with drooped arms; its smile faded, “That was terribly, terribly rude. He sold me his soul eons ago and has been hiding it from me ever since.”
“S-sorry?” Grimfang ventured.
The creature shrugged and slumped back towards the bar, asking calmly as it leaned over it, “You mind if I take this one?”
“No business of mine,” Grimfang answered, still gripping the amulet and blade tightly.
The creature’s long arm swooped over the bar and dragged the barkeep up. It slung the unconscious body over its shoulder and stepped to the circle, taking a careful look around the room. The smile came back to its full strength while the glowing eyes gazed upon Grimfang.
“You needn’t worry,” it teased excitedly, “Keep that fancy-fancy about you, and you are basically untouchable. Oh, and this one? He sold his soul for…what was it? Pig farms, I think. Collection is a bit early, but I hate to come up for nothing.”
The creature shrugged, “You’d be surprised how small some people dream. Do tell: what is it that you truly desire?
“Oh, I’m quite content.”
“Suit yourself, but if you change your mind just call for me. Call for Azazal.”
The circle of flame on the floor ignited once again. With a whoosh, the creature and the barkeep slid down into shadow, gone without further trace. Grimfang collapsed to the floor, seating his ample posterior in the dirt. One hand loosened its grip on the dagger, allowing it to rest on his leg. The other hand remained white-knuckled with a firm hold of the Seal of Solomon.
“Other people don’t get to tell you what you can have!
Someone else doesn’t get to tell you who you can be!
The world doesn’t get to decide what you can try.
You are the only one who can make that decision.”
Moral of the Story:
Dream big: know what you want, why you want it, and what you’re going to do about it. Big plans ignite the imagination of others. You’re taken seriously, you’re thought of differently. Your name becomes synonymous with big projects, big opportunities, and big success. You gather a tribe because others want to share in that success or cheer you on. It’s aspirational, it’s inspirational, and success breeds success. There are far fewer applications for the huge, life-changing roles, contracts, and grants than there are for the smaller ones. It’s lonely at the top. People talk themselves out of aiming high. They settle for less, make excuses, and rarely leave their comfort zone. They believe that someone else will be better qualified so they don’t submit an application.
Picture hearing the best news you could ever hear, for your life or career. Now imagine falling just short of that. Still good, right? The bigger your plan A, by default, the better your plan B, C and D. Make living an ordinary life your worst-case scenario, not your master plan. You can always opt-out and take a step back in the future. It’s always possible to downsize, downgrade and take it slowly if the necessity arises that you fall back. Dream big about what you want to achieve. Dream big about the life you want to lead and the difference you want to make. Dream big about the person you want to be. Dream big because you might surprise yourself. Dream big because until you do, you’ll have no idea what you’re capable of.
“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire, the size of your dream, and how you handle disappointment along the way.”
Affirmation: I am passionately driven to achieve massive success
I am a badass visionary with the audacity to dream bigger than anyone before me. I am fully committed to making my goals a reality. I courageously walk through every door of opportunity, knowing I can accomplish anything I focus on. I am so worthy of smashing all my biggest goals and dreams. I already have what it takes. My success is world-changing for humanity. I make my own magic. I am capable of creating the life I can’t stop thinking about. I decide my destiny. I refuse to settle for less than I deserve. There is no limit to what I can achieve. I can accomplish anything I focus on. I believe in myself and my ability to succeed. I turn my dreams into goals, my goals into plans, and my plans into reality. I am committed, consistent, and courageous. I am wildly capable of achieving great things. My dreams are world-changing for the highest good of all concerned.
“They say you dream too big. I say they think too small.”