From Bertrand, priest of Treebridge
To Kuthbert, chaplain of our master and protectorate Althror
on this, the 3rd day of Kullgstund, in the 511th year of the One God
My dear friend Kuthbert,
An interesting charm crossed my path recently. Our local miller, Erik, spoke to me concerning the burial of his departed brother (in fact, this is the second time Erik has spoken to me about the death of his brother, and indeed, the second time that said brother has passed away – but that is a story for another time. In fact, I suspect someone will be visiting you soon who can tell you the full story, if they have not already). He was clearing out his brother’s belongings, and came across a small, golden locket in the style of a feather. Erik, being the devout fellow that he is, donated the jewellery to the church, to help us with the costs of the upcoming autumn harvest festival.
The locket itself was just a piece of jewellery, but stylised as it was, it reminded me of an old legend I had translated from an Ancient Tabamoric scroll some years ago. My curiosity piqued, I found the translation, and – seeing as I am sending you the locket to add to the royal coffers – I thought you would find the legend of interest.
Many hundreds of years ago, when the Tabamor Empire was young and imperialistic, and controlled much of the southern mainland – before even the city of Skie was built, the early emperors lived in the sun-drenched south, and ruled with much less care and compassion than their descendants. These were greedy and slovenly men, lavished upon by their concubines, gorging on the excesses of the land and growing old counting their endless hordes of gold coin.
One such emperor, Nebukanden the Golden, was particularly known for his love of gold. He taxed and tithed his subjects while he grew ever fatter and wealthier. He sent scores of men to their deaths in mines under the salt-plains of what is now the Omarian Sultanate, carving deeper into the toxic rocks for more gold to bring him. He had built towering statues of glittering gold to show to all his wealth and prosperity. But still it was not enough for Nebukanden.
He called his chief priest, a studious man by the name of Olgo, to audience him one day. And he commanded Olgo to bring him a living animal of gold, such that he might shave it’s fur or pluck it’s feathers, and they would grow back, so he could become richer still. He told Olgo that should he fail in this task, the priest would be buried alive under Nebukanden’s mountains of gold coin, to be crushed to death slowly under their weight.
Olgo consulted every scholar and explorer he could – none knew of an animal of gold. He prayed to the star-gods that folk in those days worshipped – but received no answer. He travelled to the most distant corners of what we now know as Lore, searching desperately for such an animal.
Until one day, he searched out a wise man he was told about in the isles of Kaliphor. The wise man, the name of whom we shall never know, had such an animal – a gift from the gods themselves, so he claimed. It was an ostrich, with feathers of glistening gold. Now somehow, and we know not how, Olgo bartered with the wise man, and was given the ostrich to take home.
The wise man however, gave one warning – the ostrich would shed a golden feather every new moon, but you must never pluck a feather from it yourself, lest you anger the creature. Olgo took this advice, and returned to Nebukanden with the bird, pleasing the emperor at last.
But Nebukanden was not a patient man. One feather every new moon was not enough for him, and in his greed and lust, he seized the bird, and plucked a feather from it’s back. The bird shrieked, but Nebukanden cared not, and plucked another feather, and another.
Olgo pleaded with his emperor, telling him the wise man’s warnings, but Nebukanden struck Olgo across the face, and plucked a fourth feather, and a fifth. Olgo could only watch in horror as Nebukanden continued to wrest feathers from the shrieking bird.
But as the twelfth feather was plucked, the bird was angered too much, and broke free from Nebukanden’s grip, and turned on the foolish emperor. In a blind fury, it bit and it clawed, with strength far greater than that of the emperor’s own. The emperor was torn limb from limb under the attack of the bird, until his golden palace chambers were spattered and smeared in his blood.
Then, the bird took off, beating it’s wings furiously and soaring out of a window. The twelve feathers floated away on the zephyrs, vanishing into the sky overhead. And Olgo was left alone, stood in the empty palace hall, with the emperor’s gold all about him.
Such is the story of how Emperor Olgo the Benevolent came to power in ancient Tabamor, the first of the kindly rulers that began to change the fortunes of the empire and the people that lived within it.
And what became of the twelve golden feathers? Perhaps we shall never know. Legend says they still float in the air above us, waiting for the right time to settle back down to the earth.
But of course, my friend, these ancient fables are nothing but pure nonsense! I thought you would appreciate the tall tale, nonetheless!
My warmest regards,