o all those who'd like to hear a
strange story for a change, here's an oddly fascinating one for the likes of
you. The following tale is still told around the Rimmerins Ring area where it
all happened a couple of centuries ago, and it goes something like this:
It so happened that one day a man walked up a pass leading over the Quenshuran
Mountains towards Anisael. Anisael is a small village in an aptly named vale
called Mistdale, you have to know, and lies east of the major town of Onved, of
which you surely must have heard. Now there’s nothing to it going up that path,
only that the man of our story was unknown to the locals and a peculiar sight to
behold as well, so peculiar indeed that some heads turned when they noticed him
as he was heading upwards. For he was missing a leg, you see, and that's why he
was moving along supported by two crutches: placing the first a bit in front of
him he then let the one leg swing forward, then he placed the crutches again and
continued that way on and on. Why he had to go up that steep pass with such an
unfortunate predicament of his was anyone's guess, but whoever saw him didn't
think much of it then, aside from noting of course that it looked a bit out of
the ordinary. Well, the fellow arrived on top alright, for we have an account of
a youth who got in a conversation with him, and that's why we're here to tell
"Good morrow," said the young lad as he saw the invalid approaching. The youth
was sitting on the edge of a ledge overlooking the grasslands below; dangling
his feet he seemed to enjoy the sunrise. He had seen the stranger's cumbersome
ascent from the southern side of the mountains from afar as well, and was
already wondering about him.
"Good morrow, kindly," replied the man and then asked whether it would be
alright with the youth to join him for a while on his ledge, for he was fatigued
from the long walk.
The young man nodded, and thus the newcomer put his crutches to the side and sat
down next to him.
"This is Anisael over there, isn't it?" said he, pointing to the small village
on the northern side of the mountain. The morning fog was slowly clearing out of
Mistdale, uncloaking the settlement.
"Sure it is," the youth confirmed his guess, eyeing him a bit with curiosity.
Rarely had he seen someone with a missing limb, and he felt a bit uncomfortable.
"That's Anisael, alright. And I should know, for my father's home is there, and
where my father lives, I live also. I've spent my whole life in Anisael, if you
must know, almost twenty cycles now in this picturesque place."
"Incidentally, the very same thing I can say as well," the stranger smiled
impishly. "Though it is more than thirty years by now that I left the village
behind where I was born in. Only recently have I decided to return to it, for it
occurred to me that there is unfinished business I have to attend to. – Say," he
then said rather abruptly without elaborating the business he mentioned further:
"How do you like it here? Do you think about leaving this beautiful corner of
the world as well like most young men do? Have you plans to see the world, find
work in a big town – or do you feel satisfied with what rural life has to
“Ah, I guess, you’re right there that I've been thinking about all that. The
time might have arrived finally for me to go away and try my luck elsewhere,”
the youth answered a bit sad. He was struck with sympathy for the stranger
though, not only because it was heartrending to see a man who had lost his leg,
but also because he claimed to have his roots here. Moreover his voice sounded
warm and affectionate and the youth felt as if he could trust the fellow, even
though he was thirty years his senior. So he confided in him further and
explained: “In spite of everything I’ve grown up with and love here, the world
is a large place, isn’t it? How would I ever know what I’m actually missing if I
don’t venture forth and see what’s there?“
The stranger looked at him empathetically. “I understand the urge to go away, to
spread one’s wings, to be out and about. Who wouldn’t?” he then replied. “After
all, I’ve been young once as well. I might not look it now, but my once brown
hair fell in long curls over my shoulder like yours does now, and I was
determined to do whatever I set my mind to. Now my face is worn, scarred by the
life I’ve lived, and my hair is grey, maybe also a mark from the many things
I’ve seen.” He didn’t mention the loss of his leg, though. It was on the youth’s
mind, however, for it was hard to ignore, yet he didn’t dare to ask the stranger
about it directly.
“So, you’ll be leaving soon then?” the man wanted to know. "Is your mind made up
“I’m still not sure yet,” the young man said. “I wanted to think about it today,
that’s why I’ve come up here, to get away from things and consider my options
with a clear head. It’s not an easy decision to make, you know.”
“No better place to do exactly that than here, I guess,” the one-legged man
agreed. “Say, what would you leave behind if you go? What are your prospects if
you stay in Anisael?”
“My father is proprietor of a winery,” the youth told him. “He’s quite a famous
winemaker here in the region. Would you believe that even the New-Santhalan
nobles buy their Chéniar from our vineyard, rather than from the famous
Horvindson brothers in Syhron in the south? And they have a dozen times more
land than we do! It’s a mighty fine wine we produce, I can tell you!” The youth
pointed at the rolling hills on the edge of vale, cradling the village,
stretching for a couple of strals from the east to the west and merging into the
Rimmerins range to the north. “This is all ours, you see. It goes without
question that my father would love to have me continue the business he has
established over the past decades,” the young man added pensively.
The stranger smiled. “I gather your father must be Fjorsund Marsten then?”
Pride gleamed in the eyes of the youth. “You know him? Actually, it’s Fjorsund
Goldwine now – he received a honorary title a couple of years ago!”
“Sure I remember your father!” the one-legged man said. “It’s not that I’m a
stranger in this part of the world, remember?”
“Of course, of course,” the youth nodded.
“Have you got any siblings that could take over the winery your family is so
“No, I haven’t,” the young man admitted shaking his head. “That’s a pity. But
relatives would be willing to continue the business if I’m not around. I’m quite
sure they would, it’s not that anyone insists that I have to do it. And my
father could always sell the winery to some rich merchant if he wanted to and
make a decent price.”
The stranger said nothing for a while, only gazed at the village down below, and
with him the youth fell silent as well. Late in the morning as it was, the
settlement still lay sleepily between the hills as if it were posing for a
picture. The activities of the handful of people visible could barely be noticed
from above, and the scene felt dreamy, almost hypnotic in its simplicity. If one
watched closer the scattered cattle could be beheld grazing leisurely in the
meadow, the chatty washwomen were kneeling at a nearby brook attending to their
business, oh, and right now a peasant was leading his horse out of the stable
down a rutty road towards a field where a plough was already waiting to begin
the day's work. The latter disturbed the idyllic image a bit, making the
observer aware that what looked like an oil painting was indeed very much alive.
“Any idea already where you’d be going, young fellow? What you’d like to do if
you indeed decide to head off?” the stranger thereupon asked.
“I might become a sailor if everything goes well,” the youth offered. “See
places like the dwarven kingdom of Denilou, or the flying ships of Qel’tra’loh,
and continents like the deserts of Aeruillin or the rough, barbarous lands of
Northern Sarvonia! Could you imagine? – Or maybe I'll join the guards, become a
soldier for His Majesty, the Santran. I’d come around quite a bit in the United
Kingdom then, fighting for the good and the just, maybe even get knighted or
blessed, so that I'd become a paladin in the service of the Gods. Wouldn’t that
“You’re not afraid to fight, to put your life on the line?” the stranger probed.
“You might have to fight, to defend yourself and to kill others for causes you
don’t necessarily agree with... After all, in the King's army you’re supposed to
follow orders without questioning them. You’ll be your own master if you’re a
soldier among soldiers for the Thane or even the King.”
“Risks I’d have to take,” the youth answered curtly and shrugged. “I might
distinguish myself when I'm doing my job right. The award is to rise in the
ranks, to be valued for one’s loyalty.”
“So the need for adventure and possible fame wins out against concerns that you
might not be able to enjoy all that the way you intend to?”
“Could be,” the young man replied. “But that’s what decisions are made for,
aren’t they? To stick with them once they are made, in spite of arguments that
still speak against them afterwards. You need resolve to make decisions, and
courage and commitment to follow them through. Soldiers know that.”
The stranger squinted and let his gaze drift over the rolling hills in the
distance, only to arrive at the porches of the winery, which he could see tucked
between one of the foothills of the Northern Rimmerins range. Then he said:
“Continuing your father’s business also would require courage and commitment;
maybe even more so if you had to give up other things that you now dream about
and might think you can’t do without." His tone turned somewhat sorrowful.
“Challenges life offers are many and always differing, and whatever you choose,
they are all rewarding, only in other ways – that I’ve come to understand over
the course of the years. But regardless which path you choose, you have to make
sacrifices, you know, for yourself and for others – and there are always others
in your life affected by whatever decision you make. Each shadow we cast, we
cast upon somebody else, remember that.”
The youth said nothing. His eyes had followed the stranger’s and were now
resting on the winery in the distance, which had been his home for such a long
time. Life in Anisael would change if he weren’t there anymore. But it would
change anyway, with or without him, he was convinced.
“There’s a girl as well, right?” the one-legged stranger then brought up.
At that question the youth flinched a bit, but then nodded wordlessly, lost in
The stranger didn’t follow up with another query, rather, after some time, he
began to tell his own story: “I’ve left back then, you know. Never looked back.
I thought it better not to. That was my way of dealing with goodbyes. It was
difficult at times, but I let old memories drown in the wake of new
undertakings, risks I took, adventures I picked. I was a seaman in my twenties,
I also was a lady's man for a while, for I enjoyed their company, and I
eventually became a fighter. That, I felt, was my vocation, there was something
I wanted to prove. I have seen many a thing, and I don't regret most of what I
got myself into, for – as I said – you grow with each tiniest experience and you
learn. Nothing is really in vain, neither pleasures nor pain.
However, I found that to some things, to some people, to certain memories and
dreams one can’t ever get back again if one doesn’t choose in their favor in the
first place. Consider them well, as long as you still have the chance. As for
everything else: Life always changes, that’s just the way the Gods intend it to,
and what you once missed might offer itself anew, and what you thought lost is
no loss at all – either because it returns to you or you lose interest. So weigh
your options carefully – yours, and the options you leave others with if you
make decisions.” The stranger sighed audibly. “Sounds like trite advice, I'm
aware of that, young fellow. It's just that from time to time someone needs to
tell you what you already know.”
The youth nodded again. He had a lot on his mind, but he didn’t know what to
answer right now and so he said nothing. Thus the both of them sat for a while
longer on the ledge without uttering another word, until the stranger reached
for his crutches.
“Well, my friend, I guess one of us needs to return to Anisael. That’s at least
what I’ve come for,” the invalid said and attempted to get up. “I shouldn’t
dally all day. And you – you keep on thinking a little while more to make a good
The youth lent him a hand as he saw him struggling with getting on his single
foot. Once the stranger stood and was about to go ahead with his journey, the
young man couldn’t help himself but had to ask: “Excuse me for being blunt, but
about that leg of yours: May I ask how it came about that you lost it?”
The stranger, leaning on his two crutches, wiped the sweat from his brow and
replied: “It was an ambush, up Stormwarden’s Ridge, near Watchford. It happened
just a couple of months ago.”
“So you are in the service of the King?”
“Was, my friend,” the one-legged said with bitterness in his voice.
“But there is no war going on right now, is there?”
“No, it was a big concerted operation against the Sanguian thieves underground,”
the stranger elaborated. “The biggest since Santhros’ ascension to the throne,
that's what it was. Unfortunately, mistakes were made. Parts of our troops found
themselves waylaid by bandits who had gotten wind of the affair, and outright
carnage ensued. We were only a small group, largely outnumbered by the
assailants. Reinforcements arrived too late. I’ve lost many companions in the
battle and barely escaped with my own life as you can see. Death and destruction
are constant companions if you commit yourself to the path of a royal guard. And
one day one might find one’s self on the losing side.”
“Stormwarden’s not that far away from here,” the youth remarked, a bit puzzled.
“But we’ve never heard of any of this carnage around here. A few months ago, you
The stranger frowned. “You think I’m lying?” he retorted and pointed at his
missing leg. “Looks real enough to me.”
“Just saying,” the youth noted. “Maybe you guards acted in secrecy and kept the
whole thing covered up?”
“Trust me, you’ll hear of it soon enough. All in good time,” the one-legged man
assured him cryptically, then turned towards the path that went down into the
vale. “But I guess I really need to go now, I fear. Good luck to you at any
“Thanks for talking and your advice,” the youth said and offered him his hand
for shaking. The stranger did so and then patted him on the shoulder. “I trust
we’ll see each other in Anisael later today, right?" the youth suggested. "What
are your plans anyway?”
"Ah, we'll see, my boy, we'll see," the man said. “I guess there are a couple of
things from my past I have to catch up with.”
“Well then, see you...” the youth was searching for a name, but found that the
stranger hadn’t provided any.
“Ermarmin,” the man replied and was already on his way. “Ermarmin, the
One-Legged they call me now.”
“Ermarmin?” the youth repeated incredulously as the stranger already descended.
“That’s my name as well! And I thought it is such a rare one... How are the
But the stranger had already gone.
Only one Ermarmin arrived back in
Anisael that day.
It was the youth, and he asked around for the stranger he had met at the inn,
the tavern, the shops, even at the smithy and the sawmill at the other end of
the village, but nobody had seen him or heard anything about him. A one-legged
stranger would have attracted some attention, everyone said, so they assured him
that it was obvious that his mysterious man hadn’t been in the village at all.
He must have gone elsewhere. Ermarmin was mystified, but he still remembered the
invalid’s words so clearly that he thought long and hard about them.
As for his decision to leave the village and try his luck elsewhere: Eventually
Ermarmin chose to stay. He couldn’t quite explain to anyone what caused him to
make up his mind, and mentioning the stranger who had talked to him up there on
the ledge didn’t help matters. Especially – according to the mysterious man’s
own words – he had only told him what he knew anyway. To most people Ermarmin
talked to this didn’t make any sense. Some said he must have dozed off or
hallucinated when sitting too long in the blazing sun, but the youth insisted
that he had seen someone and that the person couldn't have been an illusion.
Finally he learned that villagers south of the Quenshuran range had indeed
noticed someone that fit his description, and that he had been seen ascending
the pass as well, but then they had lost track of him. It was almost as if he
Ermarmin married the next year and his wife bore him three children. He also
took over the winery and became a renowned winemaker just like his father. So
it's safe to say that he and his family lived indeed happily ever after.
One day however – it was many, many cycles later already – Ermarmin finally
heard the news of an incident at Stormwarden: Bandits had slain dozens of royal
guards in a botched operation near Watchford. The stranger hadn’t been lying
after all. But by then Ermarmin knew already in his heart what had become of
him. By whatever miraculous ways it all had happened, he was sure that the
stranger now stood again on his own two feet, and that he wasn't that strange
after all and never had been.