“For committing the highly illegal act of murder, I am sentencing you to the depths of our deepest dungeon, never to see the light of day again!”

     The king of the Icarian Domain slammed his fist down on his throne’s arm rest, and the sound echoed through the royal chamber. Cheers broke out in the watching crowd, accompanied by just a small amount of booing. The king raised his hand, and the hall fell silent.

     “Unless,“ He paused, giving some thought to his decree, “Unless you truly believe that you can regain your honor in the eyes of my people.” The king stroked his long brown beard, continuing his proposal. “If you can complete a nearly impossible service for your domain, for your people, and for your king, then I shall let you go free. If you fail, then your name shall forever be remembered as that of a traitor, and you shall never be welcome in this land again.”

     The accused criminal’s face lit up the second the decree left the king’s lips. He had been fighting monsters and demons alike his entire life, and had yet to be outmatched in a battle of strength. The newly hopeful man let his eagerness show, and did not hesitate before announcing, “For my king, I will do anything!” 

     The king made no immediate reaction to this, but to the most observant eye, one might have been able to make out the smallest of smirks on the wise old man’s face. He once again spoke, “Now I shall warn you. My task may seem simple, but I suggest you heed my words that there will be troubles you face worse than anything you have ever seen. This will take all of your strength, all of your wit and all of your will to survive, and even with that, I do not believe you will succeed.” The old man then clapped his hands together twice, and two armored guards lead a scrawny pale jester into the chamber. The king continued to explain, “Due to this being such a draining feat, I shall provide you with a source of merriment. All warriors need a good bard.” At this, the jester let out a quick, but hoarse cough that lingered in the chamber for just a moment too long.

     The accused man was not expecting this, and was not exactly impressed by the bard’s presence in the room. Bards are supposed to be lovable, or charismatic, or even just energetic, the man thought, but I almost feel less comfortable now that he’s here. A bard hanging around simply meant there was one extra person to protect in a fight, and the criminal was not positive of how inspired he’d be to save this particular one.

     The king’s voice boomed once again, startling the accused man back out of his own thoughts. “Your destination shall be the wild continent of Allyria. I know of a man there named Dougal who may be interested in this sword—“ As the king spoke, one of his aides brought over an object wrapped in beautiful red silk. The king took the silken bundle into his hands and continued, “This weapon belongs to a long line of people that I’d rather not be involved with. There are bad omens all around it and I do not trust it anywhere but in the right hands.”

     The Icarian king stood, and everyone in the hall knelt in response. He stepped down from his throne and walked up to the accused criminal, handing him the silken bundle. “You quest begins right this second. We have the gear you had on you before. Take it, and be gone from this domain, criminal. Perhaps one day we shall see each other again in good graces. Now stand!”

****

     The newly freed criminal and his bard companion left the Icarian Domain in silence. As they passed by an outlying farm, cows began mooing in unison at the two travelers, and the abnormally large criminal chuckled to himself about how it almost sounded like the animals were cheering his name. For the first time in months, the hopeful man smiled.