“Who would come before the High Sultan of the Emerald Caliphate?” said the sultan. The warrior took a step forward.
“He who slayed the White Worm and brings its eyes as proof.”
The sultan tilted his head and stroked his beard. “Can such a man, possessing golden hair and sapphire eyes, with skin the color of a pig’s underbelly, do this thing?”
“It should be no surprise to you, Desert King, that the only man ever to pass through the Oasis of the Seventeen Sisters should stand before you today.”
“Ah, but I cannot believe this man exists. Such tales are told. Are you the same man who survived the Nine Trials of the Sea King? Who tore the horn from the Black Unicorn of Burzshygg? Who once bested a Fate in a game of chance?”
The warrior grinned. “Norns make poor gamblers.”
The sultan clapped. “I proclaimed that only the greatest warrior in all the world would be able to best the White Worm of Akkanthaz, and see him here! Such a warrior, this man from across the Cold Sea. I will have a toast to our hero!”
The warrior downed the wine he found thrust into his hand. As soon as he did, every muscle in his body seized and tightened. He could not move even his eyes.
The sultan smiled. “Ah, but I cannot allow this man to exist. The people will tell a hero’s stories for all time. But if none know how a story ends, it will be forgotten. You must die here, Northern Prince, and none will mourn you, for none shall know.”
The warrior began to collapse, turning purple for lack of air. The sultan continued, “I am the High Sultan of the Emerald Caliphate. I am he who ate the heart of the Red Tiger of Um. I am he who carved the Curved Diamond. My stories will live for one thousand years. Your stories will not be told, and none will know your name.”
With all the power he had left, the warrior exhaled a single word in the Northern tongue. Then he died. The sultan had the body removed.
“Who would come before me next?”