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A Better Tomorrow (Character Introduction)

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Richard coughed into the handkerchief, small red specks standing out among the whiteness of the cloth.

He looked across the room at the empty bed and the candle perched next to it upon a table. The candle’s tallow melted low and had not been changed in quite some time.

During these moments of emptiness, staring at the burned-out candle, Richard summoned forth the memories of the people that once lived here. Not HERE here, but in the greater world. There was a point in time when the streets bustled with activity, when the King held Court, when the Virtues were espoused. There was a time when Joelle laid next to him.

Each day he would research in the King’s Library at the behest of the Court. Each day Joelle would plant a lingering kiss on his forehead before he left. Each night when it was time to sleep, she would plant a lingering kiss on his forehead and tell him: “Sleep and dream of a better tomorrow.”


He only ever replied, “I shall only dream of you.”

Richard shook his head, clearing away the cobwebs of memory. With another hacking cough and a few more speckles of red, he arose from his chair. His table was covered in books of history and lore, tactics and politics, bestiaries and codices. For years he served the Court by discovering information that they requested. But that was before the Red Rain and the exodus.

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He could no longer remain here. Not just in this building, in this city, but in this very Realm. It’s been longer than he could remember since the last of the people of the Realm disappeared (that he knew of, anyway) either to death or escape.

Tall piles of neatly rolled scrolls and parchments filled the nearby bookshelves. These were the works that Richard busied himself with over the past several years. They did not pertain to the research he did for the Court. They did not contain important treatises or primers. They were stories. They were the stories of the people that once lived here. This was all that remained of them, and this was all that would serve to inform anybody that they existed at all. If anybody were to ever come here.

But it was time to rest. Richard made his way over to the bed and slumped down upon its hard hay-stuffed mattress. It did occur to him that he could pick any bed in the whole of the Realm, but this somehow felt fitting for him.

Laying back, the tension in his chest and shoulders eased, and the ever-present urge to cough settled deeper down the back of his throat like a loose knot being tightened. He closed his eyes and after a moment, before drifting to sleep, Joelle whispered in his ear.

“Sleep and dream of a better tomorrow.”

He murmured his reply to the empty room. “I shall only dream of you.”
*****

Richard saw her face clearly. The face that was once so vibrant and full of life was pale, her cheeks sunken, her hair brittle. What stood out most to him was the intense redness of her lips.


When she coughed, a fresh layer of red coated her mouth. Richard dabbed what he could away with a handkerchief. She didn’t say much. She couldn’t really say much. Richard just sat with her and watched her fade as the Red Rain ran its course.
*****

In a sweat, Richard awoke, as he did most mornings. The unbidden dream dissipated into the back of his mind and ushered forward a new thought: today was the day.


Today was the day that Richard ran out of stories to write. He knew of nobody else whose history would need to be recorded. Today was the day that he would leave this Realm.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he could hear Joelle’s disappointment in him, that he stayed as long as he did, that he didn’t leave when he could have so long ago, before she was gone. She did not want him to see her in the grips of the Red Rain, but he never could muster the strength to do as she wished.

Standing up, a slow trickle of copper-tasting fluid drained down the back of Richard’s throat. He had gotten used to it. A couple of strong coughs loosened up the coagulations that formed and he was able to breathe easier again, though he could already feel the tightness return to his chest and shoulders.

He looked around the room once more. The hard bed, the burned out candle, the shelves of the stories of people’s lives. He left those things behind when he walked out of the door and made his way to Lord British’s castle.

Of course, the castle was empty. His echoing footfalls were the only sound. He had only visited the castle a couple of times since Lord British and his Court left the Realm, to gather books from the King’s Library. Richard did not like being in the place alone.

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But this time he was not going to the King’s Library.

During the exodus, the wizards of the Court created a black moongate to escape from this Realm, and all who wished to follow were bidden to do so by Lord British. After so many years, Richard would finally step through as well.

He read enough of the Court wizard’s notes to know how to create the black gate with the materials that existed within the storerooms of the castle. The problem was, Richard had no idea where his gate would lead.

But did it really matter? What was left here? Just memories, too many of which were unwelcomed ones. He opened the gate.


*****

Joelle’s hand was so light and delicate in his. There was no strength left in it, no warmth. Richard squeezed her hand lightly and planted a lingering kiss on her ash-white forehead.
“Sleep and dream of a better tomorrow” he told her.

He liked to believe that she heard him.


*****

Looking into the black gate, Richard could almost make out some sort of landscape on the other side, but it was obfuscated by ink-like tendrils of ether. Was this the better tomorrow that Joelle wished for him? Richard could not say; he just knew that there were no better tomorrows where he was.

He stepped through the gate.

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The world, the new world, was not what Richard expected. After several days of exploring and attempting to discover any information at all, he made several discoveries.

This world was called Avadon, though most people referred to it as the Outlands. It struck Richard as strange, as most research and notes from the Court wizards suggested that almost all parallel worlds were in the form and shape of Britannia, but clearly Avadon was not. However, the closer he looked at geographical maps, he noticed certain landmasses that bore more than coincidental resemblances to areas of Britannia. The city called Cambria here occupied the same general area as Trinsic in Britannia, and shared many similar traits such as sandstone architecture and Barrier Isle. The city of Andaria was very reminiscent of Britain itself, complete with castle, the farmer’s bridge, and other features. Richard even spotted an area of wilderness with a remarkable resemblance to the Cove peninsula.

But this world was not Britannia. This was a malformed version of Britannia. A world where there was no Lord British or Avatar to instill the Virtues. It was curious, then, as to why there were Shrines dedicated to the eight Virtues in this world, but little to no regard for the Virtues themselves. Perhaps missionaries or priests from other Realms have made their way here and spread some influence of the Virtues? Richard wasn’t sure, but it was the best guess he had.

One thing that was certain, which Richard learned quickly, was that this was a dangerous land. Due to some malicious force, or perhaps the lack of Virtues, the world is full of corrupt and dangerous monsters and people who are more than happy to commit murder for amusement.

Richard was no fighter and he would not last long without friends or allies.

It was perhaps kismet that he encountered the Knight’s Guild; foreigners in this land just as he was, valorous adventurers and warriors having come from a land they referred to as “Forever”. They espoused the Virtues in a manner that gave Richard pangs of nostalgia. As it just so happened they were in search of someone who could piece together lore and detail the stories of their people. Tasks in which Richard was well-suited.

And so Richard found himself in the Knight’s Guild hall. They were gracious enough to allow him to utilize a room on the second floor to establish a small library and workspace. It would take a little time to set that up, but for the moment Richard was content to ease back onto a provided bedroll and let the tension slip away from his chest and shoulders. He coughed coppery-orange bile into his handkerchief and laid his head back.

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After a moment, just before drifting off to sleep, Joelle leaned close to his ear. “Sleep and dream of a better tomorrow.”

“I will.”