The Conqueror in the Wastes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
In pursuit of culture and wealth, the denizens of a great city entrust their future to a man with his own ambitions.

Submitted: August 07, 2012

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Submitted: August 07, 2012

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Once – in a time and place far removed from our own – there was a great, endless wasteland. All the world assumed that nothing could live in such a desert, but in truth there were several groups scratching out a living in that barren expanse. Most significant of all was Pinnacle, a place to be found in the exact center of the wasteland. It must have appeared a mirage to travelers who saw it – a great shining city in the middle of hell. But it was as real as the wind and sands that engulfed it.

 

Pinnacle was built in the footsteps of many other cities that had fallen into ruin for want of the will to succeed. It was the vision a man whose name has been lost to the ages, but who was known to his people as the Conqueror, for he was the one who had conquered the wasteland. The people who lived in Pinnacle were known as the Blessed Few for they were able to live a peaceful life while the others in the wastes clung to their lives by mere threads.

 

Life in Pinnacle was comfortable, but uneventful, and the Blessed Few gradually grew bored with their lives. They had heard legends of the wonders that were said to exist out in the wastes. The Blessed Few could only speak of such things – they had known only Pinnacle, and each of them feared what he might find beyond the city walls. One day, while the Blessed Few were discussing the world, the Conqueror descended from his palace to the city. He was the only among their number who had experienced the wastes firsthand, so the Blessed Few flocked to him, begging to know of the wonders of the wastes.

 

If you wish to see the glories of the world,” the Conqueror spoke, “why do you not go to see them yourselves?”

 

Because we can not survive in the wasteland,” they replied. “We would perish in the world outside.”

 

Then,” said the Conqueror, “do you wish for me to fetch these wonders and return them to Pinnacle?”

 

We would be ever grateful, lord,” they canted.

 

The Conqueror was a man of his word. That evening, he set out alone into the wastes. One week later, he returned, a caravan in tow. The wonders of the world were laid out in the heart of Pinnacle – things of which the Blessed Few had only whispered before. “Thank you, my lord!” they sang to the Conqueror. He only smiled.

 

For a while, life in Pinnacle was happy and carefree. However, as the days turned to months, the Blessed Few found themselves growing bored with the gifts of the wastes. They wished for new treasures to enjoy. So, the next time the Conqueror descended from his palace, the Blessed Few flocked to him. “We love the gifts you have brought us, lord,” they said, “but are there not further wonders in the world?”

 

Then,” said the Conqueror, “do you wish for me to retrieve more of these wonders and return them to Pinnacle?”

 

We would never forget it, lord,” they replied.

 

That evening, the Conqueror set out again into the wastes. In five days' time he returned, leading another caravan filled with new splendor. Again, the Blessed Few celebrated. They filled their homes with these new treasures, and life was again joyous. “Bless you, lord!” said the Blessed Few. The Conqueror only smiled.

 

The revelry did not last long. Barely had a month passed when the Blessed Few grew tired of their treasures. This time, they traveled to the palace of the Conqueror. “Please, great lord!” they shouted. “Please grant us audience!”

 

The Conqueror appeared on his dais. “What is your wish, my children?”

 

We desire more wonders, great lord!” sang the Blessed Few.

 

Very well,” replied the Conqueror. The next evening, he set out again into the wastes. That night, the Blessed Few could hear a faint sound in the skies over Pinnacle. It sounded faintly like a mournful wail, quickly cut off.

 

Three days later, the Conqueror returned to Pinnacle with another caravan. Once again, the Blessed Few celebrated, but just two weeks they had grown weary of their treasures. They again approached the palace, begging the Conqueror to retrieve more wonders, and again he traveled into the wastes. Again, the Blessed Few could hear a wail in the night, and again the Conqueror returned with gifts. This continued for many months, with the screams growing louder and more terrible each time. The Blessed Few grew troubled – what was happening in the wasteland to merit such a sound?

 

Finally, the Blessed Few gathered outside of the palace. The Conqueror took to his dais and addressed the crowd. “Do you desire more treasures?”

 

My lord, we have heard strange sounds at night,” spoke the crowd. “You are more knowledgeable than any of us. Can you tell us the source?”

 

The Conqueror smiled. “The wastes are a quiet place, and sound travels far. I will investigate this mystery on my next travel, but there is never much time. Do you wish for me to seek out the sound, or retrieve more wonders?”

 

The Blessed Few never considered this possibility. The thought of new treasures meant more to any of them than the mysterious wail. “Bring us more wonders!” sang the crowd.

 

That evening, the Conqueror departed again. That night, the screams returned, louder and longer than they had ever been. None of the Blessed Few could sleep. They were sure that the Conqueror was the cause of the sounds. The next day, when the Conqueror entered the city, the Blessed Few gathered to meet him. “Lord, what is it that you have done in the wastes?” they asked.

 

The Conqueror looked down at his people. “I have retrieved wonders, as you wished,” he said. “Does the source of those wonders really concern you?”

 

Please, lord!” the crowd replied. “Please tell us!”

 

Very well,” spoke the Conqueror. “These treasures come from the people in the wastes who are not Blessed. They craft these treasures, and in exchange I allow them to continue their wretched existence.”

 

This is a crime!” shouted the crowd.

 

Does this truly trouble you?” replied the Conqueror. “These treasures were always borne of suffering, and you were happy to take them.”

 

Now we know the truth!” shouted the Blessed Few. “We will not keep slaves for our own glorification!”

 

The Conqueror laughed. “Your slaves? You, who are terrified of the world beyond? You, who have come to need the wonders that only I can provide? You are no less my slaves just because you live in my paradise. That only makes you the Blessed Slaves. Now return to your homes, before I strip away that blessing!”


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