The castle burned, even the stones. The King and his knights were all dead, the princes captured. All by one man, and he was approaching the village. Daven stood shaking in the road as the watched the beast approach. Rumors had him 15 feet tall with horns and surrounded by flames. His eyes glowed with the light of 1000 suns and he had foot long claws that could rend a man to shreds.
A rustle around the corner drew his eye, and he turned to see a man, an average man in simple clothing. He strolled casually towards Daven. The man’s eyes twinkled, and his mouth was upturned slightly as he hummed a tune. He stopped in front of the array of farmers with hoes and pitchforks and bowed.
“I am Castrago the Destroyer. Pleased to meet you,” he bowed low with a flourish of the wrist.
Everyone laughed at the simpleton. “Listen, the real Castrago is on his way and will no doubt kill you for such blasphemy!” Daven yelled at him. The strange man tossed his hand over his mouth, currently held in an exaggerated O. He spun and looked in each direction with wild gestures.
“Sorry. Only me. Hope you’re not disappointed,” again with the stupid bow.
“Idiot!” Derath yelled and ran to grab his arm and drag him to the relative safety of the village. Upon touching the strange man’s arm a blue crackling flame ran up Derath’s arm and he shot 5 yards away and lay moaning in a shrub.
The rest raised their makeshift weapons. Castrago for his part just crossed his arms and sighed. “Look, I really have no desire to hurt you. I merely want to burn your village to cinders. Is that so bad, really?”
“Charge!” yelled Daven and as one they ran at the man. He raised his hand and men flew everywhere. Daven hit his head on a rock and was knocked senseless. He regained himself to see his home – all their homes in flames. Tears sprung to his eyes. His wife and children were in there. Loud screaming drew his eyes and he saw all the women and children in a group, stunned into silence at the horror of what was happening.
Castrago for his part danced and pointed at various buildings and farms. They exploded in flames at his gesture. He looked sinister now, and a cold fear shook Daven to his core. Surprisingly, something else came over it. White hot fury. This man had destroyed everything. The people would starve and with no king to protect them they would fall prey to bandits.
“You Bastard! Why must you do this to us? We are farmers! Without our farms we will starve! You are evil incarnate!” he spat in Castrago’s direction.
The man turned on him. His eyes held flames, and he sneered “You understand nothing. Do you see a burning farm or dead animal?” he gestured and sure enough, Daven saw the cattle and sheep, and the fields lay untouched.
Confused, Daven asked “Why? We have nowhere to live now. Our possessions destroyed. How will tend our fields with nowhere to live?”
Castrago gestured at the nearest home, little more than a straw hut supported by branches. “How long did it take to make that home?” he asked
“Half a day, but that doesn’t matter. Our possessions-”
Castrago cut him off “Your personal effects are in a pile over yonder, only your worthless and broken pottery has been destroyed,” he walked over to Daven “A cart comes from the castle with metal cookware and proper equipment. Courtesy of your King,” he bowed.
Daven paled “We will be killed! The King-”
Again Castrago cut him off “What King would that be?”
“He will be replaced and we will be slaughtered!” Daven screamed.
“What do you know of the tale of Castrago the Destroyer?” he asked
“The land is razed, and any Knight or Lord who approaches is found days later, lost and confused, “ Daven said.
“Now let me explain the truth,” Castrago said, leaning his face close “Kings are a great evil. Why were your homes made of straw? Your cookware from pig iron, and your equipment barely functional?”
“Peasants cannot cut the King’s forest, or course. We could only harvest fallen trees for support and firewood.” Daven said it was the most basic tenet every peasant knew.
“You raise all the cattle, correct? Were you allowed to eat it?” Castrago asked
“Only on Holy Days and Feasts. We were allowed a small portion of mutton each month,” Daven said, confused at where this was going.
“What did you eat?” Castrago asked.
“Well hardtack dissolved in beer for lunch and stew for dinner,” he said.
“And what if the harvest was poor?” Castrago asked.
“We paid our Leige and made do with the remainder,” he answered.
“And for everything you do for him what does he do for you? Did he pay you?” Castrago stated.
“Of course not, we are peasants. We serve at his whim. He did protect us from bandits,” Daven was beginning to see what Castrago was saying, but couldn’t quite bring himself to admit it.
“Did he really? Or did he provide your militia with spears to stop them?”
“Why, he… he…” Daven was at a loss.
“The only time that Lord cared for you was when you brought him food, or he needed fodder for war. So why does he matter?”
“So.. our lands are isolated when you are done? No Knights, Kings or Lords? What about trade?” Daven asked.
“My people, the gypsies, are unafraid of the blighted lands. They trade between the dead lands. Do you understand what this means?” Castrago said, smiling.
“Wood homes. Proper food. No pointless wars,” Daven looked up in awe “we’re free!”
Castrago clapped and pointed at him “Exactly! You do need one more thing, though.”
“What else could we need?” Daven asked?
“A protector. The world is a dangerous place,” without warning he grabbed Daven and he felt like he was burning. Screaming he looked down to see a brand on his wrist, a strange sigil. As he studied it he felt the power rising within himself. He could now call upon flames and other powers he was yet to understand.
Daven looked up at their Savior. “Now we are free,” he smiled and turned to the others who also had begun to grasp what this truly meant.
“Lead them well Daven,” Castrago said and walked away, fading slowly until only a mist remained.