Enderal:The Records of the Wayward Wanderer
You, the reader of these lines, relentless adventurer, who has found my hideout and is holding this book right now, are to be congratulated! These are the records of the Pathless One. Not any pathless one, no, this is the writing of a true luminary: the Wayward Wanderer.
He who is, without a doubt, extolled all over Enderal even after his death in the song of the Wayward Wanderer. The followers of Malphas have done their utmost to spread this sordid song throughout the land. There is no bard who does not count it as a part of his repertoire, no commoner who has not sung it once in his lifetime at work or on his way to the market. Why should it be any different now that you have wrenched it from my decaying remains? The songs that people do not know to whom or to what they relate persist the longest. Or do you know the name of the bard who has written down this tune? I met him in person; he wrote down his notes based on my tales, which he then proceeded to rework into this caricature which you get to hear in the local tavern, whether you want to or not.
A young lad he was, ambitious and curious. He visited me in my hut in the Undercity, searching for gripping stories, as he told me. He had just returned from his journey to Nehrim. The bards there were mute, he said, and they would only play their lutes in the streets. If people wanted to listen to chanting, they had to wait until groups of musicians came from distant lands to perform in the theatre of Erothin. As he noticed the empty satchels of his colleagues there, he witnessed one of Enderal's principles regarding bards: that people not only wanted to hear music, but also stories. And he was a great listener. Before I realized it, I had told him my whole life's story and the paper was filled with his scribblings. How could I have known then that it would result in such a sorry affair? Yet it should not be surprising. Too tempting are the riches promised to those who serve Malphas' cult.
And so he did not compose an authentic ballad in the venerable manner of bards and honor, but rather wrote one that ensured him the favor of the third might, the Paladins. His name remained unknown, yet his satchel was full for the rest of his life. And me? I received alms from the storyteller, but became a real celebrity in my lifetime. My notoriety made the citizens shrink back; I was a bad example who was shown to children to keep them on the right path. The gossip about he who was foolish enough to bear his heart to the traveling bard spread fast throughout the Undercity. And it was there that the legend about the one who disdained the path which had been chosen for him originated. Every resident of this cursed quarter could have been the Wayward Wanderer, yet still was everyone willing to point out my hut for a good payment from the tourists.
The Paladins were suspicious about my infamy at first, for they were glad they had the song of the Wayward Wanderer, an easy-to-grasp, anonymous, and universal tool, which entertained and intimidated people at the same time. The words of the lyrics were so vague, the transgressions and woes so mundane, that anyone could see themselves in them.
It turned out however, that simply my existence was a welcomed addition to the ubiquity of the song, even though no one knew any more about the Wayward Wanderer than before, after having seen my humble abode in the Undercity. People felt admonished and insecure by the warning of the ballad and thus by visiting me they could reassure themselves that it was indeed someone else's fate. To them, I became a living reminder to not become like me and to always follow the path which was determined by birth. They came in multitudes from everywhere, just to take a gander at me, who made them shudder blissfully with my failed existence, safe in the knowledge that by unquestioningly following Malphas' tenets, they were doing the right thing. Aristocratic ladies had their servants lay down cloths on the dusty roads. "That no dirt might touch my shoes. They are genuine Boddenbruuks from Nehrim!" they scolded, as they pressed their wrinkled noses against my windows to study with their own eyes the squalor that the most pathless of the pathless ones had to endure.
The children's games were not any less cruel. One could hear them the whole day: "Who strays in the void? Who strays in the void? The Wayward Wanderer, the Wayward Wanderer!" This they chanted while they poked one from their midst, whom they had blindfolded, with sticks. After a while another child, who was wearing a headdress braided of twigs, removed the pathless one's blindfold and said with the utmost magnanimity: "Come back onto Malphas' path!" The previously teased child was rewarded with the crown of twigs and the role of the paladin for the next round. They steadily approached my hut while playing this game. They wanted to prove their courage to each other by doing so. Once I got carried away and scared them away with an evil glance; they ran away screaming and giggling, only to return after a while to begin their game anew.
For a while I endured this condition. After all I only had this place, this miserable hut amidst the dirt of the Undercity. It became my refuge after countless, long journeys. No other place remained for me, for no society wanted to include someone who had lived for so many years off of the path that was intended for him. What drove me on those journeys, those wanderings? Was it a dream I was searching for in the sunset? Ridiculous! Mere tripe from the mind of the balladmonger to make a line of his song sound like something they might call poetry.
I had not searched for any dream, but for answers! Answers to all the questions which this world poses and that cannot be answered by the monotone, mumbled principles of Malphas, memorized by all the citizens of Enderal.
I have not found even a single answer, but I have found love. One of the few things the song was right about. The love of that woman was so great that she was willing to share with me my miserable life in the Undercity. But it was doomed to fail. Only sorrow and anguish remained. And something the song forgot to mention: death.
Yes, I left her. I wandered away. To spare her from the rogues and cutthroats of the Undercity who lusted for wealth they assumed she might possess. I left her, so that she might return to the bosom of her family, back to the sheltered life she had been leading before she absconded with me. Oh yes, you do not know; this is something the song has left out: She was the daughter of the rich, reputable Prince Dal'Brois, the beautiful Juliana. She brought disgrace to her family when she disappeared with a pathless one to trade her life in luxury, which she had been savoring before, for a harsh life in the Undercity. I went away. Left a message to let her know that I had ventured out to a faraway place and had no intention of returning. Wrote something of a different woman in a distant land. I wrote down everything to keep her away from this place, where a life with me could only lead to misfortune. And she went back.
Only shortly after my shameful disappearance did I return secretly to the city to see if my plan to keep Juliana away from the misfortune that living with me would lead to was working out. To see if she had found her way back to a life which offered her repose and security. A life which allowed her to raise her kids one day in an environment, which might be dishonest and decadent, but was not doomed to misery and death as was the one I could offer her in the Undercity. But I had not foreseen the depravity of the mighty. In the shrubbery of the palace garden beneath her chamber, where I was hiding, I could hear the wailing of Juliana's mother, the princess. Her husband tried to soothe her with calming words. He talked of the curse of a life in the Undercity and of the scum Juliana had decided to invite into her life. She had been murdered, surreptitiously in the night, in her own room inside the palace.
I perceived everything else like a nightmare that crept into a daze. I knew where I was heading. I knew all the corners and hideouts, the secret meeting points of the Undercity. And indeed a couple of hours later I had found the prince, hooded with a cloak, escorted by two heavily-armed guards. He had found some poor fool for his scheme. He was certain to receive his dirty payment for the assassination.
He was impaled with a sword instead. Another dead man they would find in the gutter at sunrise. And the family Dal'Brois was freed from everything that could have damaged their reputation. The family's bloodline and every branch of their pedigree would still be carried on by them whose lives occurred without a stigma on Malphas' path. Why now? Why was Juliana spared when she was still living in the Undercity with me? How could one order the death of his own flesh and blood? You. Reader of these writings, you are hopefully less gullible than I was back then. Only after a while did I recognize the prince's logic: As a pathless castaway Juliana was not a member of the family any longer, nobody had to justify himself to her. Like all of those who have had to live in the Undercity, she did not exist anymore.
No book would have ever mentioned her again, she would have disappeared from her father's annals as one of the many early deceased children in the margins. Only when she returned remorsefully to Malphas' path with a bowed head did she become a menace to the family of the prince. For centuries they had been great paragons, for only those faithful to Malphas came from this house. This tradition was to be preserved by Prince Dal'Brois at any cost. The remorseful who returned to their path after straying once were the favorites of the order. With their shame and infamy these petty ones were the easiest to control. Not for anything in the world did the prince want this weakness in his gallant house. He wanted to be able to look the order in the eye.
It was all the same to me when my hopes to see the woman I loved from a distance were shattered. I returned to my empty hut in the Undercity and let life pass me by. I have not had any more questions for the world, yet at least the wretchedness happening all around me could not unsettle me. I was waiting for the years to pass and death to draw its circles ever closer around my home. Prince Dal'Brois did not do me the favor of sending an assassin to take my life as well. I was too irrelevant, too benign to the great house, now freed from the infamy in their midst. Not even the princess, who had truly been mourning for her daughter and who did not suspect who really was responsible for Juliana's death, would have believed me even if I had managed to approach her. I was but a pathless one.
And then came the bard. Damn it, how could I have known that this fellow would be able to get me talking like that? That is when the tranquility ceased. Gawkers. Children. Racket. First I considered yelling everything I knew, hoping that I might yet be struck down by the baron's henchmen. Bu I did not want to die in this place. I traveled for one last time, long and far, to find this cave, a place far away from everything I did not want to see or hear. And one more thing: Never have I had regrets for not following Malphas' path.
And never have I advised anyone to stay on Malphas' path. For I was never asked anyway. Nobody ever wanted to hear my advice. You, the reader of these lines, are you a disciple of Malphas? Then throw this paper into the next fireplace. Delight yourself at the sight of these lines burning in flames, which you believe to be the fire of truth.
But if perhaps you are a free spirit, someone whose thoughts do not wander on those predestined, narrow paths, then take these writings with you. Maybe you will be able to achieve more than I could with this story of my life. Find others who might want to read this and who are ready to learn from it, how putrid the threads of the mighty are which are spread across this land.