The hospice hallway was dimmed and there was lingering smell of bleach as I walked down towards Vance’s room. I knew that he was dying and the summons I received from his sister meant that the end was near. It had been a long year and Vance, my friend since college, had struggled with and will finally succumb to, the cancer that he was diagnosed with last Christmas. What a lousy year this had been.
I knocked at the door and entered, pulling the linen drapes aside I saw that he was lying in one of those high end hospital beds, a bright red blanket up to his chest and an IV drip was attached to his left hand. I knew it was morphine. He looked gaunt and tired, his hair was uncombed and he had a pale look to him. Not just pale, but worn, almost translucent. He smiled as I entered.
“Hello champ how goes it?” I bantered as I sat down in the chair closest to the bed.
“Hey! I have been waiting for you slacker.” He said in a strained voice, barely above a whisper. “How am I? I’ve been better.” A small mischievous smile crept across his face. “You see that hot nurse out there? Too bad she’s taken. I can’t talk her out of dumping her fiancée and running off with me to Tahiti.” His smile ended in a slight grimace and a spasmodic cough. “Sorry, the morphine is still kicking in. The pain is not fun.” He said. There was a moment pause where we just looked at each other.
Memories flooded me, the times we had shared, and a sense of what this man meant to me as my friend. Dam few friends these days to lose any more, especially ones that were so important.
Seeming to sense my mood, Vance smiled, “I still think you should have bought the Jag.” I laughed as my mind flashed back to a time when I could have bought my dream car for a song. I procrastinated and it was sold out underneath me before I mustered the guts to sign on the dotted line. Vance said that I was a fool and went to some pains to remind me of his ignored advice for going on twenty years now. Never of course, in front of my wife, but when we were alone, it was almost a mantra. Twenty years? Yes, I recounted them; I had known this man as my friend over half my life.
“I have something for you.” He said and he motioned to the table next to him. There was what looked to be a large stationary box. “Open it.” he said.
I reached over and grabbed the box. It was much heavier than I had anticipated and brought to my lap where I carefully opened it. Inside was what looked to be a typed manuscript.
“I have been working on this for a long time”, he said, “and now I want you to have it.” He paused as I took a moment and inspected the pages, several hundred, neatly typed. This surprised me, as I had no inkling that Vance was a writer.
“I don’t understand” I said, unable to contain my confusion.
He smiled, and said, “Read the introduction.” He then closed his eyes and sighed, “I will just take a short nap here while you do. Wake me if that hot nurse comes in. I have to work in her some more.”
I smiled then turned my attention to the box in my lap. The introduction was twenty pages long, talking about of all things, the nature of the universe. Specifically how there are infinite variations of reality played out in alternate dimensions and explained fairly well under the general term of Quantum Physics. It went on to cite references and theories and wove an intricate argument of how every story, every act of artistic creation was a momentary breach between these infinite dimensions bringing that “reality” back into our own. Every story, every novel, every “fantasy world” was in fact, in some other alternate dimension and therefore real. It ended with a question in that do we really pull this stuff from alternate dimensions, or by the act of inspiration do we cause its existence? Do we create infinite universes by our acts of creativity and storytelling?
I looked up maybe twenty minutes later to see Vance watching me. He smiled and whispered, “Keep reading.” then shut his eyes again.
I looked down at Chapter One, and I started reading about the history of this medieval fantasy kingdom: Pendor.
Almost a Millennium ago Edit
The war of the Titans laid the foundation for the ascension of Man. A terrible war, between ancient elder races left the world stripped of magic, and those magnificent mythical people, once so powerful, were now only the stuff of folklore and legends. Only the reclusive Noldor, what since “The Lord of the Rings”, we call “Elves” remain from those times, and their once great cities are all destroyed save perhaps one.
Three hundred fifty four years ago – the Founding of Pendor Edit
It is the time of Man. The story centers on the fertile lands of Pendor and the struggles of the peoples, their leaders and their destiny. Several hundred years ago, a single Kingdom was forged by sword and fire. A peace was maintained and prosperity came to the kingdom and it flourished. Five generations of Pendorian Kings sat on the Silver Throne in Sarleon and for nearly two hundred years they guided the destiny of their land and its subjects.
From the Founding of Pendor – the year 198 Edit
The downfall of the Kingdom was as swift as it was vile. A single month, thirty days, and the Empire was in tatters. The irony was it was not by the sword in battle, nor by some dark magic that caused the deaths of the King and his family. But by an unseen killer, a disease, the red plague that ravaged the land and cut down the peoples of the Kingdom, great and small, like an assassin in the night.
The royal family had perished, and there was no King to rule the land. Then came the invasions that seemed to shatter the once proud kingdom into slivers and the glory that was once the Kingdom of Pendor, was now itself the stuff of legend.
With the death of the King and his heirs, there was chaos. Multiple lords laid claim to the throne and nearly every noble of the land began squabbling over succession.
From the Founding of Pendor – the year 199 Edit
The carefully laid agreements, truces and alliances with neighboring powers became suspect. In the North, the mountain tribesmen began raiding the heartlands of Pendor. Embolden by their success and the lack of response from the Knights of the Realm, they struck even deeper and soon this led to the siege to Rane. The Earl of Rane sought help from the nobles of the land, but the schemes of the powerful found reasons not to come to his aid. Many Northern Lords, banded together and formed a small army that marched to defend the city from the onslaught of the northern Mystmountain warriors.. The battle was bloody and fierce, and in the end, the siege was lifted, and the barbarian tribesmen and their shaman leaders, routed back to their mountain homes. The Northern Lords, who fought so valiantly that day, decided to establish a knighthood order, the Order of the Dragon, comprised of the valiant warriors who defended the city. News of this new order was not well received by other knighthood orders or by the nobility to the South. They demanded that the Order of the Dragon be disbanded which in the minds of the proud warriors of the North, was an unforgivable insult to their valor. The scorn of other established knighthood and the lack of support to route the invaders from Rane prompted the Northern Lords to break ties with the southern lords and declared themselves an independent Kingdom: The Kingdom of Ravenstern.
Reeling from the succession of the Northern cities and lords, the remaining Pendorian nobility were not prepared to meet the next challenge that followed within a few short years.
From the Founding of Pendor – the year 202 Edit
From the South, over the southern sea,the Great Baccus Empire launched an invasion fleet and landed a powerful army on the shores of Pendor led by the war hardened General Oasar. He drove inland conquering cities and castles, and seemed unstoppable. Ironically, within a few short months of campaigning, the general received by messenger that the great Baccus Empire itself was in civil war and that the Emperor had been assassinated. After receiving this shocking news, Oasar established himself, with the support of several Pendor Lords, as Overlord of Janos and officially broke away from what was left of the Baccus Empire. The great Baccus Empire convoluted and fragmented into dozens of principalities, city-states, and kingdoms. The greatest and most powerful is the under the dominion of the priesthood of the serpent: a powerful and seemingly mystical religion of warrior priests who worship the unnamed goddess of darkness who manifests herself in the form of a snake.
For the once great kingdom of Pendor, that meant that a large portion of it’s Southern lands, cities and nobility were now either dead or sworn to service under this upstart general who calls himself Overlord.
From the Founding of Pendor – the year 204 Edit
After the establishment of the Northern Kingdom of Ravenstern and the invasion of Oasar, the powerful Lord Alfred, Duke of Sarleon, consolidated the remaining lords of Pendor and declared himself King of Sarleon. For ten years a measure of peace was maintained.
From the Founding of Pendor – the year 213 Edit
To the far north, across the seas lived the hearty warriors of the Vanskerry. Segmented into Jarldoms, they were raiders and traders. With the Baccus Empire gone, many of the Vanskerry mercenaries in their employ were free to return home to the frosty shores of their fathers. A wise man’s musings in the reaches of Vanskerry goes “Death is found in the blade of your enemy and trouble when a warrior has nothing to do.” When word came to the North of the troubles of Pendor, it was greeted with a call to arms and promises of plunder and women. Soon, raiding ships found the shores of Pendor a ripe land full of gold and wealth. Their well-armed and hearty warriors began raiding the towns and villages along the coast and met very little resistance. The Knights of the Lion and Lords of Sarleon responded by patrolling the coastal shores. Yet, still the crafty Vanskerry raiders managed to sack village after village. With so little ability to defend themselves, the merchant lords of the Pendorian coastal provinces sent delegations to the Jarldoms to seek alliances and protection. At first they were rejected, but in time as offers included titles and lands many Jarls and their huscarls began to listen.
The lands of Vanskerry are rugged and cold, compared with the lush and rich pastures of Pendor. The lure of good weather, and the chance to become a Lord of a castle, or even a well-located mayor of a village, appealed to many of the Jarls. Soon, many Vanskerry households left the shores of their fathers and sought fortune and prosperity along the coast of Pendor. Some entered into the service of the Pendorian lords, others married into the noble families. This changed many things in the Kingdom, as the warrior culture and attitudes of Vanskerry were brought into the noble houses of the coastal lords. Within a generation the culture gap was so great that the coastal nobles broke away from the King of Sarleon and formed a rough alliance of city-states called collectively the Fierdsvaain.
From the Founding of Pendor – the years from 204 to 245 Edit
The story continued and detailed intrigues, war and heroic actions as well as the great villains of the land. There were stories of the Jatu tribesmen and their flight from the Empire and General Oasar, becoming nomads in the Eastern prairies of Pendor. There are the detailed accounts of the Order of the Lion, a knighthood order of Pendor, and their history and their betrayal by one of their own which had the order declared outlaw for years until their redemption under the current King of Sarleon. Chapters were dedicated to the D’Shar, a nomadic peoples who are evolving into a military and economic force only to find that their own worst enemy is themselves. Just as fascinating was the references to the encounters with the ancient Noldor and their powerful weapons and enchantments that changed the life of more than one adventurer. I was especially drawn to the story of Madigan, a wandering mystic who prophesized the coming of a hero who would unite the lords of the Pendor and reunite the old kingdom. His saga touched me as a hero himself, trying to speak the truth and being condemned to death for his beliefs.
I was startled out of my reading by the nurse telling me that visiting hours were over.
It was late, and I had spent most of the afternoon and early evening captured by the amazing story I held in my hands. I skipped quickly to the last pages and found them blank. I realized suddenly that the final chapters were missing.
I looked at Vance, who once again was awake, and watching me. Guessing my question and concern he said, “I do not have the answer to the last chapters. Those will have to be written. Perhaps when you write them, it will create those dimensions, those realities. I do not know for sure, but I suspect that is the case. I am too tired now to continue. That is why I asked you here today mate. Finish the story.”
He reached over and took my hand and gave it a hard squeeze. “I am tired mate and I have to sleep” he said in a half dreamy voice. It was the morphine I knew, finally giving him relief to the awful pain he must be feeling. I smiled at him and he shut his eyes and went to sleep.