The Orphan and the Emperor
Long ago, an orphan lived with his aunt and uncle on a farm in the middle of a vast desert. They had to work very hard to keep their crops growing in that desolate place. His aunt and uncle told him that a warrior who served the emperor had murdered his parents. This emperor had conquered every kingdom in the known world with dark magic and the might of his army. The only challenge to his power was a small band of rebels. As the boy grew closer to manhood, he longed to become a warrior and join this rebellion. But his uncle kept him on the farm, saying they would not survive without his help.
One day, his uncle brought home an indentured servant whose writ he had purchased. While the boy was helping the servant get settled, a letter bearing a royal seal fell from his pocket. The orphan caught only a glimpse of it before the servant snatched it back, saying it was only for his true master’s eyes. As soon as this servant was left alone, he ran off into the desert. The orphan took his uncle’s horse and followed the man’s tracks to the edge of a canyon, where he was attacked by bandits. In the midst of the fight a brown-hooded figure appeared, and fought with such skill the bandits fled. When he let down his hood the orphan recognized an old hermit who lived in those parts. They took shelter together in the hermit’s cave, and found the runaway servant waiting there. The servant claimed the hermit was his master and gave him the letter.
In this letter, the princess wrote that working for the rebellion she had stolen plans for a floating fortress the emperor was building, with cannons that could level an entire kingdom. The plans revealed a weakness the rebels could use to destroy it. Imperial ships had captured her vessel, so she gave the plans to her servant, who jumped overboard and came to find the brown-hooded warrior. She asked him to finish her mission by delivering the plans to the rebels.
The hermit told the orphan and the servant that he was indeed the brown-hooded warrior, though it was many years since he had drawn his sword. Then from a case he produced a sword and gave it to the orphan. He told him it was his father’s sword, and that long ago he had trained his father to be a warrior. Another of his apprentices, an iron-mantled warrior had betrayed and murdered his father and joined the emperors service. He asked the orphan to come with him, to help him complete the princess’s mission and learn to be a warrior. The orphan said he could not abandon his aunt and uncle but offered to lend the servant and the warrior horses for their journey. When the three of them arrived back at the farm they found the orphan’s aunt and uncle murdered. It was clear that imperial soldiers had killed them, searching for the stolen plans. They buried the old couple’s remains, and standing before their graves the orphan pledged his service to the brown-hooded warrior and the rebellion.
The next morning they set out on horseback for a nearby port. In a bar where scoundrels mingled, they found a smuggler who- for a high price- agreed to help them escape on his ship. This smuggler’s companion was a wild man who was covered in hair from head to toe. This smuggler owed money to a local warlord, who had put a price on his head. They left the bar together, fighting their way through imperial soldiers and bounty hunters. When they reached the smuggler’s ship, they set sail, managed to lose their pursuers in a storm and sailed off towards the princess’s kingdom. On the way the brown-hooded warrior began to train his apprentice. As they clashed swords, he pushed his apprentice to let go of his thoughts and outer senses and trust instead to inner knowing. This inner knowing, he said, could help him connect with the force that flowed through everything.
After several weeks journey they reached the princess’s kingdom, but when they looked to shore all they saw was rubble and destruction. Close to shore stood a mountainous island that was not on any map. Upon it stood a great fortress that towered into the sky. As they sailed closer they realized it wasn’t an island at all but the floating fortress the princess had described. They tried to flee, but imperial ships struck down their sail, boarded their ship, and towed it into the fortress. They managed to hide themselves in one of the ships secret holds. Then, when a party of soldiers searched the ship, they overcame them, stole their uniforms and- leaving the servant to repair the ship’s sail- they made their way into the fortress.
The brown-hooded warrior told the young warrior, the smuggler and the wild man to wait close by the ship while he found a way to create a distraction so they could escape. While they were waiting the young warrior realized the princess must be imprisoned there. He thought up a plan to rescue her, and with promises of even greater rewards, convinced the smuggler and the wild man to help him. They put manacles on the wild man, found their way to the fortress’s prison, found the princess, and helped her escape.
Meanwhile the iron-mantled warrior, who was in command of the fortress, had felt the brown-hooded warrior’s presence, found him and confronted him. The iron-mantled warrior called the brown-hooded one “my mentor,” and said his power had far surpassed his mentor’s in the years since his training. The brown-hooded warrior replied that there were more profound layers in the force then the iron-mantled warrior knew, and if he were struck down he would rise again with awesome power. As the young warrior, the princess, the smuggler and the wild man were making their escape, they looked up and from afar they saw the brown-hooded warrior and the iron-mantled warrior clashing swords. The young warrior watched in horror as his mentor lowered his sword and the iron mantled warrior struck him a terrible blow. But as the blow struck his mentor seemed to disappear, leaving the iron-mantled warrior clutching an empty robe.
The servant had managed to repair their ships sail, and they escaped, and found a fleet of rebel ships that was gathering close by, planning their attack on the fortress. By studying the plans they were able to find a single central column wThe smuggler and the young warrior were both charmed by the beautiful princess, but the smuggler claimed his reward and left before the battle. The young warrior was given his own ship to captain, and set out with the rebel fleet to lay siege to the fortress. It was a terrible battle and many rebel ships were destroyed. The young warrior’s ship was the only one left with cannons able to fire the decisive shot, but imperial ships (including one captained by the iron-mantled warrior) were showering his ship with cannon fire.
When all hope seemed lost, the smuggler’s ship reappeared, and fired upon the imperial ships pursuing the young warrior. This gave him the chance to launch a final volley towards the fortress’s central column. At the pivotal moment the young warrior heard the voice of the hooded warrior, telling him to trust his inner knowing. He fired a final shot, and hit the fortress’s central column, and the fortress collapsed into the sea. The rebels celebrated their victory. The princess, the young warrior, the smuggler, the wild man and the servant were all especially honored.
The destruction of the floating fortress showed that the emperor’s power could be challenged; but his army still held control. The iron-mantled warrior had survived and now hunted the rebels across the wild lands and the seas. The rebels found refuge in an icy wilderness. The princess, the young warrior, the pirate, the hairy man, and the servant were all a part of that company. The pirate was making preparations to leave, to take care of his debt and the price on his head. The pirate and the young warrior had become friends, but both still sought to win the love of the princess. One morning the young warrior was patrolling the icy wilderness on his horse when he was attacked by a great white bear, which dragged him back to its cave.
He managed to kill the creature, but it had killed his horse, and a terrible snowstorm was raging. As he fell wounded and dazed into the snow, he saw a vision: The brown-hooded warrior stood before him. He told the young warrior he must go to a great swampland and find his master- an inscrutable warrior who would continue his training. The pirate learned the young warrior had not returned from his patrol, went out into the storm, and rescued him. As the young warrior was recovering from his wounds, the imperial army attacked their encampment.
The rebels fought as long as they could and then fled. In the struggle the princess was forced to flee with the pirate and the hairy man. The young warrior left on his own ship, with the servant as his only crew, and went to find the swampland. They arrived there, and were seeking a place set down their anchor when the ship became hopelessly mired in the mud. They swam to firm ground and a tiny, wizened old man appeared. He pestered the young warrior for food, said he knew the one he was seeking, and led them back to his little hut. The young warrior was losing patience with the tiny old man when the brown-hooded warrior appeared, pleading with the tiny, old man to undertake the young warrior’s training. Then the young warrior understood that this odd looking man was none other than the inscrutable warrior.
The inscrutable warrior reluctantly agreed. He trained the young warrior, day after day, making him run through the swamp carrying him on his back. The inscrutable warrior had an even deeper knowledge of the force than the brown-hooded one. He taught the young warrior how to move objects with his mind. When the young warrior protested his limits the inscrutable warrior showed him those limits were only in his mind by lifting the mired ship into the air and placing it in free water. One day the inscrutable warrior brought his student to a great hollow tree, and told the young warrior he must go in. “What will I find there?” asked the young warrior. “Only what you bring with you.” The young warrior entered and saw there the iron-mantled warrior. In anger and terror he struck off his enemy’s head. But when the iron mantle fell away, the young warrior saw his own face revealed.
One day soon after, in the midst of training the young warrior had a vision: he saw the princess, the pirate and the hairy man in great danger. He told his master he must go save them, but the inscrutable warrior told him he must not leave- his training was not complete. If he did not learn the true way of the force, he was in danger of falling under the power of dark impulses. But the young warrior would not let his friends die. Disregarding his master’s warning he boarded his ship with the servant and set off to rescue his friends.
The princess, the pirate and the hairy man had found refuge with an old friend of the pirate. This friend had become king of a mining city hidden high in the mountains amongst the clouds. But the iron-mantled warrior had arrived before them and laid a trap, knowing the young warrior would come to save them. The pirate was given to a bounty hunter, but the pirate’s friend (who had betrayed them) helped the princess and the hairy man escape. Just before the pirate was dragged away the princess declared her love for him.
When the young warrior arrived he found the iron-mantled warrior waiting for him. As they clashed swords, the iron-mantled warrior told the young warrior his mentors had lied to him. “I didn’t kill your father. I am your father.” And as he said these words he severed the young warrior’s hand from his arm. The young warrior stumbled to the edge of a cliff. Then the iron-mantled warrior held out his hand, offering to be the young warriors new mentor, promising that together they could defeat the emperor and rule the world together. The young warrior refused, and let himself fall backwards off the cliff.
The princess, the hairy man, and the pirate’s friend found the young warrior lying farther down the cliff face, gravely injured. They rescued him, and fled to safety. They found their way to a camp of rebel warriors. Over many days, the young warrior was healed, and he received an iron hand to replace the one he’d lost. Then they all set out together to rescue the pirate.
The princess, posing as a bounty hunter, with the hairy man posing as her bounty, went first into warlord’s castle, where the pirate was being held. But she, the hairy man and the servant were all discovered and captured. When the hairy man was put in prison he found the pirate there. He had lost his sight and was severely weakened.
The young warrior arrived and confronted the warlord, warning him that he must to release his friends or face death. The warlord laughed, and tricked the young warrior into falling into a pit where a giant dwelled. He expected to watch the young warrior be killed and devoured, but instead the young warrior killed the giant. He was captured, and the warlord decided that he would cast the whole company into a bottomless pit. They were brought to the edge of the pit on horseback. The warlord came to watch, making their execution into an entertainment. The young warrior was the first to be brought to the brink of the pit. Just before he was pushed in, the servant threw him his sword, and together they subdued the warlord and his allies and escaped.
The young warrior left his friends and returned to the great swamp, to find the inscrutable warrior and complete his training. When he arrived there he found the inscrutable warrior was dying. The inscrutable warrior warned him not to give in to fear or anger, and to beware his father’s and the emperor’s trickery. And then he died.
The emperor and the iron-mantled warrior were overseeing the rebuilding of the floating fortress. It was anchored off the shore of a wild forest. The rebel fleet was gathering to attack it. The pirate, the princess, the hairy man and the servant were sent on a mission to establish a base in the forest. They encountered a clan of forest people there. The servant, who knew many languages, was able to communicate with them and recruit them as allies. The young warrior arrived and met them there. He told the princess she was his sister, the iron-mantled warrior was their father, and that he must go and face him, and try to redeem him.
He let himself be captured by imperial soldiers and was brought before the iron-mantled warrior and the emperor, in the emperor’s throne room, in the highest tower of the fortress. They watched the battle begin upon the waves below, and the emperor told the young warrior he had foreseen this attack, and all his friends would soon be dead. He tried to make the young warrior give in to fear, and anger, because he knew this would turn him into a servant of darkness. But the young warrior would not be turned, and when the emperor saw this he ordered the iron-mantled warrior to kill him. The young warrior crossed swords with his father and defeated him, severing his hand from his arm. Then he lowered his sword, refusing to kill him.
The emperor then turned all of his dark power upon the young warrior. He came very close to killing him when the iron-mantled warrior interceded, grabbed up the emperor and cast him down into the sea. The iron-mantled warrior was weak and close to death, but the young warrior refused to leave him, even as the rebels gained the upper hand and the fortress began to collapse around them. Before he died the iron-mantled warrior removed his mask, showed his face, and thanked his son for redeeming him. The young warrior escaped the crumbling fortress, brought his father’s body back to the forest, and burned it there. Then the young warrior was reunited with his friends, and there was a great celebration. Because of their heroism the world’s kingdoms were finally free from the emperor’s tyranny. From that day, they enjoyed a long age of peace and harmony.
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