Since last I wrote, I have died and been resurrected. I am a father, a husband and a king. I have been reborn in the light and warmth of the Flame of Morning. My goddess has granted me new strength. My kingdom expands with every day, bringing hope and succor to those of good and striking down those who would oppress others. I have forged a blade of legends for a champion of righteousness. I have stormed enemy fortresses with only a few companions, and emerged victorious. I have laid low an ancient being of terrible evil, the Lich Vordekai. I have even argued for the fate of a man’s soul before the goddess of death and the god of war.
My name is Alexandros Timon, and I hold many titles. Such is the way of things, and I shall not bore you with them all, as there are only two that matter: Devotee of Sarenrae; and, King of Tusklunde.
I write this after returning, again, from the realm of death called The Boneyard. This time, however, I went there knowingly, and aided by magic. But that is the tale of the end of Ovinrbaane, Enemy of All Enemies. It is a good tale, but it must be told by another, for it was not my victory. Suffice it to say, I have faith that Sarenrae approves of the restoration of the soul of Armag to its freedom.
But this story is a different one entirely, that of my first visit. A tale of my untimely demise, and of my journey into the afterlife.
I was killed by a blow from a foul smelling troll. It happened in a dank cave high above what is now the town of Crimson Crags. As is often told of in stories, everything faded to blackness.
In fact, my vision had already been growing darker steadily, most likely on account of all the blood I’d already left on the ground. I remember thinking it was odd when the final blow struck me. It brought no pain at all. It struck. I fell. It was almost euphoric.
I remember a vague soft pressure followed by a sudden thump, like being hit with a giant pillow full across the body. Little ripples of pain spread out from my heart. When the sensations ended, I slid out of my own skin. There was a roaring noise where my ears should have been, and I started to drift slowly down through the earth.
When I came to, I was standing in line. I don’t mean a line like the entrance to a jousting tourney. I mean a line that stretched as far as I could see, from horizon to horizon. Now, I don’t know if I’ve ever told you this about me, but there’s very little in life I despise more than standing in line. Lines are what happen when bureaucrats win—the bastard of a petulant school child and a gnomish engineer. Lines are the result of poor planning and disrespect. The monotonous drudgery and the meaningless time spent waiting, even just a minute of my day, can really rile me up.
This line was longer than I could reasonably walk in a day. I had died and gone to hell.
An eon of fuming at the pointless waste of my time later, I decided to try to talk to my neighbors. “Hi,” I said, “my name is Alex.” The hulking form in front of me grunted, but didn’t turn. I kept going. “How long have you been here?” Another grunt, this time sounding distinctly irritated. Fortunately I am a skilled diplomat. I was not to be deterred so easily. I tried for common ground. “So I guess we’re both dead, right? How did—”
“Give it up, he can’t talk.” I spun around as a gravelly voice interrupted my monologue.
“What?” Soul of brevity, that’s me.
“His tongue was cut out.”
“Huh?” Brevity and wit, you see.
“Tongue. Snip.” The figure gestured with fingers near mouth, making a cutting motion. I finally stopped to look at the speaker. About five foot nothing, with a scar running from right cheek across thin nose to a slightly almond shaped left eye, she was beautiful. “Lost it to an aggrieved suitor,” she continued, laughing slightly at my confusion. Her laugh drew attention to her chest, which was bare, save for the cloak she was wearing, and the cloak was open at the front.
“Who are you?” I asked, my mind still getting over the shock of a woman with a deep gravelly voice. My eyes drifted lower again. Hey, I was dead, not married. Give me a break.
The woman shifted a bit revealing that she was not quite totally naked. She also wore a bastard sword. “Hoddreid,” she said, smirking up at me. “Hoddreid the bounty hunter.” She pointed at the the figure I’d been trying to chat up a minute earlier, “he was my latest payday.”
I glanced back, noticing Grunty now looking at us, his piggy eyes squinting. “You do the tongue too?”
“Careful,” she said, binding together the clasp of her cloak and lacing up the front. “I might take yours.” She paused, then winked suddenly. “Or, we might find other ways to pass the time.”
The banter continued for a while. Hoddreid, it seems, was from yet another material realm. She had been chasing Crawmak the Raper—Grunty—when she came across a young mage who promised her enchanted armor in exchange for services. Hoddreid wasn’t clear on exactly what the mage wanted. When questioned, she blushed prettily. It was a stark contrast to her earlier, uh, starkness.
The armor, of course, turned out to be cursed, evaporating into black smoke just as Crawmak struck her with a poisoned dagger. Fortunately she’d run him through with that sword of hers first. Apparently you keep what you had in your possession when you died, which explained the sword and cloak. Hoddreid hadn’t done the tongue, though, that had been earlier in Grunty’s career.
Through our conversations I learned two other important things. First, being dead wasn’t really all that different, physiologically, than being alive. Second, I learned that time really does pass more quickly when you’re having fun.