I Stand Vigilant Before Master’s Sarcophagus and Yet Heroes Keep Breaking into His Tomb, by Matt Corluka
For centuries, I have had the honor of protecting Master’s sarcophagus. I stand motionless, and am surrounded by dust; by rot; by a silence that can last decades. I am stronger than most; the wraiths have left. The goblin slipped away one night. I am stronger than most, but…as the years pass, I find myself weakening. It is not the dust, or the rot, or even the silence that causes this failure of resolve.
It is the intruders.
Brandishing weapons and unhealthy emotions, they come in multi-racial parties of four or more to defile a crypt that by all accounts was once quite tasteful and carefully furnished. Once there was an idol of Master that was crushed by a knight. Overhead hung Master’s tapestries; they were slashed by a bandit. The mess was cleaned, but the room’s energy hasn’t been the same.
It is never-ending, but I am duty-bound. The time that I do not pass waiting and fighting is spent on chores. I regularly ascend the bone steps to camouflage the entrance, sweep the tunnel, and reset the traps. Do I have poor ability? Am I failing as a guardian, when the traps are so easily dismantled? I expected the centuries would pass by slowly; I did not expect them to bring self-doubt.
There are other issues. I have noticed my anxiety flaring up. My neuroses are as high as the hoodlums confident, and I take deep breaths to calm myself. There was an incident during a particularly social epoch when an elf stole my ring from me. Just snatched it off my finger. Could you imagine? The hubris astounded me. I destroyed him, but it caused my first panic attack.
Those damn intruders.
Oh, excellent. Here come several of them now. From the tunnel, I can see the fire from the torches and hear the ego in their voices. They walk cautiously, and I laugh to myself, because I know that caution is an act; a prelude to attack. I used to laugh louder. I do not think I have a bad laugh, but too often they mocked it, so I have quieted down. I hope I do not have a bad laugh.
In the seconds before they arrive, I ask myself “Why do they come? Is it to test themselves against me?” If that is the case, then, then, then what is the use of a reputation? My exploits were legend. They called me Annihilator. Painmonger. Boneeater (which is inaccurate; there was meat left to nibble). Am I not feared? Do others not fear me? The goblin used to say I was too amiable. Oh, really? If I was so “amiable,” why did you leave? Am I likable, or am I terrifying? Which is it? Which is it?
Those damn intruders.
I take another deep breath, and yes, I know—those were questions I should have asked the goblin while he was here, and they serve nothing now but to agitate me. The intruders approach, and my dry hands clench the hilt of my sword. They weren’t always dry—stress has given me eczema.
And after this encounter? What then? Will my resolve continue? Curse it, this may be my last. I shock even myself as I mull over my dedication. But let me remind you I have spent an eternity ever-vigilant. Yes, technically it was against my will, but what is eternity when it is constantly interrupted by harassment? (That is a rhetorical question. It is hell.)
Here they come. I can see the outlines of their weapons and their armor. There’s a wizard, a barbarian, a druid, and…a goblin?
No, it can’t be. Surely…surely, it’s not the same gob–it is. Even now, I see the familiar shape. It is him, and he is smiling.
And in that moment, I realize something. I am more than the sum of my magically-bound parts. I am more than my duty. I can leave this place, and seek out a new life. I can live in a world where the only duty I have is to ensure my hands are lotioned and my spirits lifted, in pursuit of a happiness I have not had in centuries. If the wraiths can leave, if the goblin can leave, then so can I.
I am stronger than most.
In that moment, the permanent smile on my skull feels earned. I leave the tomb, ignoring the intruders, and walk past the traps I have laid, toward a world where the sun shines. Toward freedom. Toward happiness.
My hand rises to shield my eyes from the sun (no eyelids), my first step lands on grass, and…I am instantly transported back into the tomb that I am bound to for all eternity. I laugh to myself, and the wizard mimics me, causing the others to laugh.
Those damn intruders.
Matt Corluka is running a dope D&D campaign, has a sketch comedy album coming out in May 2017, and when it comes to Highlander he’s a “: The Series” guy. On Twitter he’s generous with them RTs under @justCorluka.
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