Where to begin? The Legend of Bruce Hard was my first love--and still is, in many ways--the first time in my life I was free from the constraints of school or work and I could focus 100% of my creative energy on telling a story, creating a world, writing a book.
Started in France and finished in Albania, this draft left some stones unturned that I knew could be, well, turned; so I began re-constructing it a few years later. Unfortunately, that second draft has been paused since 2013.
Following is the introduction to the book, and what was finished of the second draft. With time, this book will be organized more sequentially as a series.
(may the Reader be teased, and a relationship created)
Once upon a time, in a time when music was the lone keeper of history and written word the only entertainment, the Kingdom of the East lived in harmony with the three Kingdoms surrounding it: the Kingdoms of the North, the West, and the Southwest. At the time of this Prologue, the Kingdom of the East had been ruled by the kindly old King Patrick since he was a mere child. He claimed the throne at thirteen years of age after his father mysteriously died of a harsh fever in the depths of winter.
1. King Patrick
King Patrick had been fit and robust in his youth, like most of Royal Blood, yet old age managed to arrive with its decadent foods and less stressful lifestyles, leading him to acquire a larger gut and softer skin. He’d always had a very fine sprucy nose. The monarch had one child: a daughter named Princess Holly. She was born to his third and final wife, who also died in a baffling manner during Princess Holly’s C-sectioned birth. King Patrick had refused to marry again after that, insisting that his seed was poison and thus the reason all his wives had perished so horribly, unable to grace him with a true male heir.
As King, his logic was clearly sound.
The Four Kingdoms of the Known World had many legends & stories passed on from generation to generation, and it is speculated the Unknown Quantity of Kingdoms of the Unknown World had even more—though no one ever dared venture an estimate, for it never occurred to anyone to do so. These legends & stories included those of dragons & knights, Kings & sea-monsters, princesses & frogs, and other dung of the bull with which the Reader is no doubt very familiar. But one legend surpassed all others in this fantastical genre, as well as any other tales of which you have or will have ever read: the Legend of the Legendary Sword.
Of objective possibility, the Legendary Sword itself could be of average length and girth. Perhaps with an invaluable gem fixed on its hilt, it lay vertically somewhere in a majestic stone quarry, offering to the skies a teasing view of all its might. Or perhaps it glowed in luminous mystery under rays of the sun. Perhaps it glimmered like a brazen diamond below an effervescent moon.
Subjectively, perhaps it brought out the innermost courage in the most timid of souls, or-while perhaps it ushered out the most definitive in the least affirmed. Perhaps it confided in whoever regarded it, expressing its loneliness and longing to trounce something of evil, as do traditionally desire such legendary swords. Or perhaps it compelled its onlooker to think irrationally, to attempt something he or she would never dare otherwise…
Or, perhaps, no one really knew. It was but a legendary sword, after all.
In references throughout the four Known Kingdoms, tradition demanded any insinuation of the Legendary Sword to be capitalized and bolded serif as a proper, particular noun. It is unknown what the Unknown Worlds required, though there have definitely been hypotheses. If circumstances couldn’t permit this aesthetic annunciation, the word needed to be unmistakably more important-looking than any other words surrounding it. It wasn’t a very complex rule, yet it was often broken. In older times, people were at times put to death due to such an absence of mind.
Most important regarding the Legend of the Legendary Sword was its prophecy—contractual terms of said legend, to be more precise. Said prophecy stated that “the locator of the Legendary Sword (herein after the “Locator”) will unite the Four Kingdoms, and at such time the power of peace will know no bounds, for fatal error will but wander in search of a suitable host. Should the Locator be clear of intent, he will also be granted the ultimate, unabsconded powers of said sword of legend, which by all accounts are completely spectacular, herein as direct affiliate of the aforementioned magical artifact.”
Truly legendary, these powers.
What said prophecy didn’t specify in its fine print, however, was the condition of this unity : was it necessary to find the Sword —would it ever be? Would it immediately bring peace to the Worlds, or in actuality merely wreak temporary medieval-esque havoc on a medieval-esque world in an effort that would one day lead to peace, by but leading it one century further along the chain of enlightened history?
No one asked these questions, of course (many lacking the mental capacity to do so) thus life flowed for the people of the Known World in a celebrated trance of the quotidian, the holy ritual of normalitude. All believed that something lay beyond, yet all remained unconcerned with the uncertain implications of believing so. The existence of such a sword of legend was the only creed the Known World (especially the Kingdom of the East) had ever known.
Ø. Parantheses : Beyond the Page
(Hey Reader, Author here—As is coming to be clear, the simplicity of the Known World is one to be envied. It is a pity that only within this prologue shall traditional narration be permitted to remember the Known World as such—for many things would change the Known World forever after this Prologue. It is for narrative elements similar to this simplicity of the Known World that I’ve reached a solution.
As there are many significant components to the coming story that cannot fit into a fast-paced narrative, the Author has taken the liberty upon Itself to break with tradition and strive to inform the Reader on all sorts of omission-friendly, conventional, relevant meta-detail in parantheses such as those you see surrounding these two paragraphs. Do be sure not to confuse these paranthetical interludes with chronological narration.)
4. Pop Culture
Hitherto, the Known Kingdoms had no need to seek out the mystical Sword, not in the generations and generations of their peaceful existences—in fact, by the time Princess Holly was born, most people had lived in their own peace for so long that they laughed at the existence of any true prophecy attached to the Sword.
Out of sight, out of mind, as they say.
Meanwhile, the prattling and gabbling songs of the bards, called bardsongs, were gaining momentum as the new and fashionable way of parting from evening hours and coin as leisure entertainment. Their recent introduction to society threatened the classic folkbook as the number one ranked form of entertainment from the daily toils of farm, shop and pub life. (Polls were taken at the end of each working week to ensure the Eastern Royalty provided proper diversion for the commonfolk.) The folkbook, having had encouraged many since the early days of basic civic literacy to believe in mysticism while still indulging in amusement, was unwittingly being replaced by this much different form of leisure.
But as a new medium, the bardsong was not only easier to coddle the craving of an absence of mind, but pleasing to the senses and, most importantly, to the ego. Its melodic I-IV-V (and sometimes, when employed by the most progressive of bards, adding the -vi) progressions made its librettos those of the most epically nostalgic, heroic pasts; and simpler, dream-compatible expectations.
5. Traditional Norms and Values
At the time of this Prologue, it was unbeknownst to the Four Known Kingdoms that it was Princess Holly’s birth itself that sparked the bardsong’s flames of total conquest. Along with the progression of technology—wheels, bridges, even simple medicines—the symbol of the beautiful princess as the future of the human race helped stoke the first fires of social complacency—and, to balance the scale, social unrest. Two concepts never before known to work together so closely, yet never again to be used in the same phrase.
Yes, given that the Kingdom of the East had lived in peace for so long, very few living souls had any further need or desire to believe in anything of legend. No amount of mythology or rhyming history can convince someone secure and comfortable in their own shameful reality to be wary of something he or she cannot feel and compartmentalize firsthand, and the commonfolk populations of the Known World were prime examples. Irrelevance is natural until the issue of personal comfort becomes relevant (much like if a man were to one day find himself with menstruation occurring in his loins).
And so it was that, legend discharged of its verbose connotation, existence of the Legendary Sword was never doubted by anyone. Resting somewhere, magically, magnanimously uniting the Four Kingdoms in an unspoken economic and political harmony, why shouldn’t there be such a powerful force?
It was for this that the Known Worlders—also known as Knowners—had no reason to ever discount the Sword‘s existence. It was all they had. No, it was the concept of a prophecy, in nuptial agreement with the Sword, offering its bearer influence and power over others, that was scoffed at in playful manners around the pubs, brothels, and future salons throughout the lands. In a society so wrapped up in the image of a beautiful heiress to power, its peoples eager to numb their minds with substance and light music, any notion of divination attached to customary belief was, thus, all but impossible.
(By Princess Holly’s fifteenth year, in fact, it was almost considered trendy by a defiant youth to believe, in a fashion so avant-garde, that the prophecy was not only real, but true!)
6. Princess Holly
Known Historians of a time much later than this Prologue would one day agree that Princess Holly’s birth itself marked a new era in the History of the Known World. The black, white, and gray beliefs surrounding the Prophecy of the Sword were to ostensibly lose importance after the day of her birth: she was the first princess to ever be born blonde, with beautiful green eyes, in perfect health. By her early teens she was complete with perfect curves and silicon breasts, with a smile to scare the haughtiness out of the bravest soldier. To the people of the Known Kingdoms, the princess was a grand enough indication of progress: she was truly a gem, a trophy to Knownkind—and, more economically, Easternkind.
With her face as the interKingdomnal icon of achievement, and her body the most popular image to be painted in pub stalls and treehouses of adolescent males (yes, of course Knowners had treehouses), the Kingdom of the East became the number one ranked tourist destination of the Worlds, based on all available polling data at the time (which was only collected in the East).
Soon, even without the retrieval of the Sword or any word of its accompanying prophecy, using the image of the princess the East managed to cement its influence over the bordering Kingdoms. What followed came to be known as the Holly Concessions.
7. The Age of Holly & InterKingdomnal Politics
The Holly Concessions were comprised of certain sacrifices and offerings to the East from its neighboring Kingdoms. In the name of Princess Holly, the Kingdom of the West, in a superstition understood by no other Known Kingdom and widely considered barbaric, would donate to the East almost as many crops as it would profit from. This surplus of vegetables and spices satisfied the East, and so the East continued to send Princess Holly to the West once per year as part of her annual tour. The North, in all its economic and culinary advancements, would lift taxes off items imported from the Seapeoples, and even share ancient recipes so that the princess may enjoy exotic foreign cuisines. The seafood also satisfied the East, and so the North could as well enjoy an annual sighting of the beautiful princess.
Being a very esoteric culture, the Southwest had little to nothing of traditional value to offer. As the least-affluent and the least-advanced Known Kingdom (the darker-skinned populace so far away in living standards, in fact, that there was talk of removing their membership from the Known World Union), the Kingdom of the Southwest had their own problems to deal with and thus could not be bothered conforming to this new interKingdomnal diplomatic game of appeasement. This did not satisfy the East, and so Princess Holly’s tour skipped the Southwest the following year. After realizing their grave mistake, the Southwestern Royalty immediately sent over its most abundant local crop, which was all they could afford : a bitter brown bean found within a sweet berry that needed to be roasted over a fire after being shelled, that was then considered a delicacy when crushed and brewed in boiling water. (When the East stared dumbfoundedly into their bitter black beverage, almost disgusted, the Southwestern ambassadors took note and later suggested to their Royalty that they introduce the East to sugar. To gain more favor with the most powerful kingdom, they agreed to send a bundle of cane stalks along with a messenger explaining its processing and usage. On his way, the messenger saw that the East already had the wild perennial cane stalks growing all over the land south of the Eastern Castle, untouched and unharvested and full of frogs. Upon sharing this information with a disorderly Eastern Castleguardsman in a conspiring effort to muck up some illicit profits, the disorderly Eastern Castleguardsman executed the messenger. Soon after, this disorderly Eastern Castleguardsman suggested to King Patrick that the processed yield of the sugar cane stalk would go well with this brewed bitter bean. And now, the East loves to drink what’s come to be called its breakfast treat… though the disorderly Eastern Castleguardsman never got the historical credit he’d anticipated.)
Yes, the concessions were appreciated by the wealthiest of the Kingdom of the East. Indulging in exotic delicacies, along with new advancements in the distilling of certain fruits, vegetables and misnomer starches providing fuller entertainment for Royal Feasts, the Eastern Royalty trotted along their elegant path of years; while meanwhile, the commonfolk toiled all day to provide meager portions of mutton and bread for their family table, and perhaps a few ales at a local public house every other night. (Breakfast treat was expensive to this lower plurality, but available. Seafood was not even presented outside of the Castle’s gates, as its trade was so costly that it wasn’t even worth bringing down to waste, rotting in a storefront’s icebox displays.)
Yet regardless of the disregard for the commonfolk and lesser Kingdoms, the Age of Holly had commenced and the average person had little awareness of their place in the inescapable social hierarchy. With a beautiful, fair-haired princess to aspire to, ostentatious bardsongs to forget the day with, and new developments in alcohol production, these mediocre people could successfully deny the shameful reality of their meager existences, which they thought were actually really nice. Ten-hour days of shopkeeping, farming, building, shit-digging, and the most mundane of tasks was the accepted mode of life for these commonfolk, while their rulers sipped fancy beverages and smoked outlandish herbs over card games, enchanting repasts, or miniature golf (the Eastern aristocracy loved miniature golf). A hierarchical status quo was set, unknown to the lower class as is standard. Along with this social system, the introduction of exotic wonders from the other Known Kingdoms slowly molded the the average Knowner’s perception of the Worlds—even the simplest of minds were intrigued.
Yes, despite its small size, the Known World was becoming smaller to each Kingdom. With the East slowly accumulating influence over the other Kingdoms, it became even smaller. And smaller still, as tastes of the Unknown were teased about now and then, as exotic rarities and nothing more.
In this Age of Holly, transformation of the present was unfathomable. Incomprehensible, esoteric to consider. Life was life as it was known—all had been stagnant for too long to entertain the idea of change, for better or for worse. And such it was. None could foresee the winds ushering shift to the paradigm, and in turn, the transition in question would climax much more theatrically…