I can still vividly remember the most disappointing day of my life. I was sixty, perhaps seventy years old. An accomplished wizard, a peerless researcher who had devoted his life to uncovering the darkest secrets of the arcane arts.
Nothing was beyond my reach, no subject was too complex--or too dark--for me to unravel.
The nations of the world and I had reached an agreement. They would leave me be, and in turn I would only teleport into their keeps and stashes of hidden lore every few years.
Information, I believe, is to be shared. Mostly with me.
I was... content. Happy. There’s nothing like the discovery of something new, of a new piece of the puzzle clicking in place to brighten my day.
I had been running a series of experiments, my laboratory filled with the stench of chicken blood and offal, my gloved arms covered to the elbows in experimental refuse. A normal, productive evening.
The memory is a bit hazy, actually. It’s been centuries, you see? I recall muttering something to an assistant, one of the many that apprenticed themselves to me on their own quests for knowledge.
The arcane sciences, you see, are art and--as the name suggests--science.
The most complex spell can be impacted by the slightest thing. Truly, most of these small variations can be ignored or smoothed over with an application of will and power, but that would mean... failing.
It would be like a master painter hiding a mistake behind a fresh layer, as opposed to truly understanding why each stroke marked the canvas as it did.
I had just pinpointed, with repeatable experiments, the reason why certain very illegal spells whose nature involves the soul and the extraction thereof would sometimes function poorly. As it turned out, the turning of the moons above did have an impact on the arcane, and I could prove it at last!
I knew that I had once more found a way to slip my name into the history books. It almost led me to missing out on the ping, on the warning flashing through my consciousness.
I had levelled up.
Grinning, I turned and inspected my stats.
My grin froze.
The world, for a moment, felt cold with confusion and uncertainty.
Two words, right at the top of my own status screen. Nothing else. Just those two.
I would like to say that everything hit me like a flash, that my rage against the world, against the system, and against the gods, started at that very moment, but that’s not quite true.
Stepping back, I told my assistant to pick up after our experiments, and I returned to my chambers for a bit of wine and a moment to contemplate.
Seeing something at the maximum level wasn’t impossible. I had certainly gotten some stats that high over the decades. Seeing their growth stop was irritating, but that was tempered by the knowledge that I had reached the pinnacle in that one area.
By my level? The expression of how strong I was?
If that had reached the maximum, then there was just no more growth to be had. No more point in experimenting to gain experience. No point in combating beasts to see how their magics worked, or of studying to grow ever more powerful.
I can recall throwing a goblet of wine across the room. An uncharacteristic show of violence and frustration for me.
I think it’s understandable. I had just then discovered that one of the pillars in my life had not so much crumbled, but been revealed to be meaningless.
This was, of course, utterly unacceptable.
In the years that followed, my research took a turn away from merely knowing the secrets of magic and of the universe. No, that wasn’t enough. Power alone wasn’t enough. Magic wasn’t enough.
I needed more. A new cause, a new reason.
Through means too dark to speak of. Nations burned, fearsome creatures that terrorized entire continents were rendered down into so many reagents. Heroes rose up to fight me, misguided and full of thoughtless zeal. They made good testbeds for my further learning.
Once I became immortal, truly immortal, I set my sights higher.
I could have become a lord of sorts. An emperor of the dead that I had turned into my unsleeping, ever loyal army, but I had no interest in mere rule.
What would I learn from observing peasants squabble in the mud? What secrets could merchants sell me that were truly worthy of my time? Why abase myself to the machinations of nobles who chased after only small pitiful things like prestige, honour, and power, and who would rather take it from others than earn it for themselves?
No. I aimed for the seat of the gods.
The clergy mocked me before they fell. Holy magic was magic, and magic was my domain.
The gods scoffed at my efforts, then cried as their celestial palaces met the earth at long last.
I watched over the world. A thousand years old. More powerful than anything in the land. My level, still mockingly only at ‘Max’, calling upon others to underestimate me.
I suppose I could have remade the world in my image. Turn it into a bastion of learning and enlightenment.
But frankly, I was tired.
At long last I decided that, for my own health, for my own self-interest, I would lay myself to sleep. Not to death, for that had been barred to me when I found Death and killed him. Not to timelessness, because who was I to allow mere time to dictate my actions? But to rest.
I would sleep, and in some eons to come, when the universe at last reached its end, I would look upon the vast emptiness of the void itself, and demand answers.
The glowing orbs that served as my eyes extinguished themselves. My loyal servants, crafted with my love and care, laid themselves down to rest. And I slept.
And then some punk woke me up.
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Bio: Yes Amazon, I really am me.