Chapter 3: They Never Listen
“Vince—your name isn’t Vince. It’s Valdrel, and you are the true king of the North.” Naturally, he was confused, and scared, and had no idea what I was talking about. Naturally, he testified that it could not be true, that he was a businessman, and that no one ruled Canada or would ever want to, and naturally, I laughed.
“Vince, I don’t mean Canada. I—well, perhaps I should start from the beginning.” I proceeded to tell him of his life—before his amnesia, I mean. He didn’t believe me, thought I was making it up, that it was too fantastic to be true. I will let you, dear reader, decide for yourself.
“Vince—I mean Valdrel—(it’s been so long since you’ve been called that)—listen to me. Do not so much as open your mouth until I tell you to.
“You, Valdrel, are true king of a land connected to this one by the grace of the gods. We have no name for it save “the North”, as it is to the North even of this world’s North Pole (which, by the way, is in the wrong spot). How, you may ask? Our gods are those of the true North—Odin Thor, and the symbol of your family, Fenris, or Fenrisulfr. He is the wolf on your knife, and its blade is the color of the North.
“Years ago, Odin opened up a gateway between the two worlds, coming to an agreement with Zeus, the lord of this one. Parties from each world would explore the other land. So it came to be that our gods were brought into this world, and the Greeks into ours. They settled south of us, with the other races. Some returned with tales of Elves and Dwarves, just as some of our own returned with tales of Satyrs and Unicorns.
“Among our people that traveled here was the first heir to the king, and he refused to return. So it was that when the king died, your ancestor took the throne. Since then Fenris has been worshipped beside Odin, and almost as fervently. He certainly gives more help than Odin does.
“Your mother and father were brave and noble warriors, but your uncle as deceitful. He brought two of your seven siblings to his side as well as many or your parents’ enemies, and took their fortress, killing your parents, your sister and two brothers. You, Herrel and Rikrel escaped with some soldiers. You gathered forces and planned to attack, but moved into a vulnerable position. You were surrounded. Each you, Herrel and Rikrel took a third of your forces and guarded a mountain pass. You and Herrel held, with the help of Fenris. Rikrel did not, and died.
“In your last battle, you killed your treacherous brother Feiken. Though you offered to spare him after your duel, he attacked again and you killed him. Then, the ignoble traitors unleashed a hail of arrows upon you, and you fell.”
Vince looked stunned, realizing where his dreams came from. Before he could speak, I continued, desperate to speak.
“We prayed for weeks for you to be healed, and in the end made a deal with Hel—your memory for your life. That is why you have amnesia.”
Valdrel didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t, wouldn’t believe it. There was no way. As all do, he persuaded himself that I was lying, that the truth was, in fact, true, simply because it challenged his perceptions of life. He turned and fled.
I, as a historian, love primary sources (and even more love to write them). Here, then, is an excerpt from Valdrel’s journal. (He always kept one, and Benny had brought it with all Valdrel’s other things.) These are only the most telling passages, not all.
6/21 - I’m locked in and not allowed to leave. Why? Why wold Tyrone do this to me? He must be lying. My name is Vince Maurice. I am NOT crazy.
6/29 - They still won’t let me out. They treat me well, give me books (all about this weird world I’m apparently from), food, and treat me like a king—yet I am not allowed to leave. My name is Vince Maurice. I am definitely not crazy.
7/8 -This new land they speak of intrigues me. It would make a good subject of a book… My name is Valdrel Vince Maurice, and I am not crazy!
7/19 - It’s been almost a month. I have to get out! I must gain my freedom! I am going crazy, I don’t even know who I am any more!
7/23 - I’ve figured it out! I am asking for extra food, but not so much that they’ll notice—crackers, cheese, etc. I still have my money, my knife, my…damn this knife! When it came I lost everything!
7/28 - I’m almost ready. I’ve mapped out patrols and stocked provisions enough for a couple weeks. I’ll be ready in three days, and then I will go.
This is where it ends. By accident, he left this behind—lucky for us, or we never would have read it. Valdrel seems to have gone crazy in the month we kept him here. He also apparently lost the journal after writing this. That explains both why it ends here and why he left it.
Anyway, he snuck out the window of the adjacent room after climbing through vents, and escaped. He was immediately captured by those who would want to kill him—those who work for his sorcerer uncle. His brother, Ginnar, was among them. I realized he was attacked, but through magic they prevented me from helping (they encased me in an invisible barrier that nothing could enter or leave) and the others had no idea of Valdrel’s escape. Here is the account of Valdrel’s capture:
Valdrel jumped, hitting the ground hard, and took off running. I saw him go, and ran after him, not having time to alert the others. As I ran, I failed to notice a trap—one of a series of stasis wards meant to capture Valdrel. Instead, it prevented me from saving him. Valdrel ran ahead, but was surrounded by the enemy. First only humans. He dispatched one with a quick flick of his knife, but was then disarmed by a second. Once again, he ran.
Out of the ground popped snakes, glimmering green—the agents of the enemy. One bit Valdrel, and he fell, screaming. He was quickly chained and led away.
An hour later, I was discovered by my men. They freed me and we ran to where Valdrel fell, looking for signs of him. We saw no signs of the struggle other than the knife. No servant of the serpent could bear to touch its holy blade, and so it had been left.
I muttered a quick prayer to Fenris, another to Odin, and set off in pursuit. We split up for efficiency. After an hour, Benny found a trace—magic residue only, but it was enough. We would find Valdrel because we had to. Our whole land depended on it. No pressure.