I sometimes imagine having a beautiful wife, waiting for my return by the warmth of the fire

I’m not sure I can bring myself to go through this again today. The pointless repetition wouldn’t be so bad if now and again I could at least have time to reflect and take stock of everything, but the chance would be a fine thing and I can’t see it happening any time soon. I long for the day when I can finish before sun down, head back to a comfortable warm house and be greeted by my beautiful wife and perhaps even a couple of excited kids who’d be overjoyed to see their father once again, asking to be told about his latest adventure or how wonderful it is to be a hero. We’d huddle around the hearth while the light from the fire dances like faeries across our faces and the warm glow would start to burn our cheeks, but it wouldn’t be close to the warmth that we’d each feel inside our hearts from knowing that good people are treated well and shown respect from those around.

Once the kids had exhausted themselves from running around slaying imaginary beasts and fallen asleep on our laps, we’d place them in bed and kiss their sweet, gentle foreheads before wishing them health and happiness for the following day. My wife and I would look at each other, not needing to speak, and fall into each other’s arms before eventually sinking into a deep, content sleep that’d see us through to the morning when we would sit on our balcony overlooking the village and watch the sun rise.

Instead, I’m lucky if someone allows me to sleep on the floor of one of their run down shacks on the waterfront where it’s rife with crime and attacks from whatever creatures dwell in the murky waters, without so much as a crust of bread to eat. When I say “lucky” I do genuinely mean that, as some won’t even bother extending such meagre courtesies and somehow expect me to travel for days without sleep where I’m ultimately subjected to sleeping with one eye open on bedrolls in the middle of the wilderness after dragging half rotten corpses off them and turning them over to lessen the stench.

It's something, I suppose.

They’ll call me traveller, wanderer, stranger, courier, mercenary or whatever best suits their own particular mental well being and yet none think to ask my name, so that I may at least have a tombstone should I fail in my quest for whatever riches they want themselves but are too spineless to seek out on their own. Were I never to return, I doubt anyone would notice apart from the cowardly slime who tasked me with the job in the first place, and only then because I hadn’t returned with their treasure.

Next time, try doing your own dirty work

As well as the greed hounds, we have those who seek revenge and lack the stones to carry it out on their own, begging the first available newcomer to the village to do so on their behalf after explaining how badly they’d been wronged. I may carry a sword, yet they rarely ever entertain the idea that this may be for my own protection rather than to put an end to the life of another. Still I give in to their pleas, and their promise of riches should I return with proof that their enemy has now “met with a little accident”. The riches, however, rarely ever appear and instead they’d thrust a few muddy coins into my palm as garnish to their story of how they’re no longer able to pay that which was originally agreed. If I take payment in their blood then I am no more than a cold blooded killer, yet if I walk away I show lack of principle.

The number of ridiculous requests I’m expected to undertake without question is unthinkable and I’m rarely even afforded the opportunity to speak my mind with these people, instead having to opt for whatever sanitised response best suits the occasion rather than just tell them they’re an idiot and would be better off taking their own life than continue to inflict their idiocy on those around them. It’s never a case of going to meet with someone to drop off a package either, there’s always so much more to it than they think to disclose at the start with their “Just head on over to the town of Reese and meet with Hilda and she’ll give you this package to bring back to me, then you can get paid” sales pitch. By the time I eventually arrive in Reese I’ll have invariably been attacked by bandits or some such lawless faction who try to rob me of everything I own while they continue to lord it up with a myriad of weaponry and loot stashed in whatever crates or chests they seem to lug around with them wherever they go.

Of course, once you finally arrive in the town and meet with the person who has the package… they no longer have it. They gave it to someone who went out hunting in the mountains several days prior and who failed to return home, leaving behind a concerned wife who hasn’t yet thought to bring the small matter of their disappearance to anyone’s attention. So much so that the disappearance is almost an afterthought when they explain that this is where I’ll likely find the package. Oh, and can I please also bring their husband back at the same time! So here I am, tired and sore after traipsing half way across the land to meet with some stranger to pick up an unknown package for another stranger, only to find that I now have to leave for the mountains to find whatever idiot thought it’d be a good idea to go hunting on their own AND take an unknown package with them.

Seriously? I came all this way... and... oh nevermind.

So… hell knows how many days later, after countless wild animal attacks, there’ll be some cave with a scrap of clothing snagged on a rock outside suggesting that the idiot has perhaps holed themselves up there while they contemplate the universe or some other ridiculous notion, but inside there’s no hunter. Inside there’s more beasts, ravenous beasts, and a veritable labyrinth of treacherous corridors that’ll invariably lead to a large clearing… with a corpse. A corpse, next to a chest with bugger all in it other than some crappy potion that is no good to man nor beast and beside the idiot lies his journal. Oh gosh, lookee here, it appears that some goblins attacked him the night before and took everything from him, including the package that he shouldn’t even have had in the first place.

This sort of crap continues for days until, ultimately, the package is found inside some hollowed out rock on the edge of a mountain where some other idiot is planning to pick it up to prevent it getting to the original guy that asked me for it. So now that I’ve got the package which, by the way, is so small that it can’t conceivably contain anything of any value to anyone whatsoever, I head back to Nobbend or whatever the village is called to find my client. A smile bursts across his face as I hand him the package, and he has the cheek to ask why it took me so long… “do I hit him now or wait until later?” I ask myself as he hands me a grubby bag of coins.

Don’t expect any more than that though, because the bag of coins is as much as you’ll ever get. No “so terribly sorry for the inconvenience old chap, and here was me thinking it’d be a simple courier job” or any additional money for having half a leg gnawed off by some cave dwelling feral girl, not even so much as an enchanted ring. It’ll always turn out that the package will contain something stupid too, like a herb or some scrap of paper with a drawing on it that’ll open a door somewhere… wonder who they’ll get to go through it, as it sure as hell won’t be them, I can guarantee it.

The amount of gear these people expect me to carry is also pretty damned ridiculous. I have ONE backpack, not a herd of pack horses, and yet they’ll ask me to pick up a shield here, a polearm there, umpteen bits of machinery from some old dwarven ruin and never offer any of their lackeys to come and carry the stuff for me. I swear there have been times where I’ve emptied my pack and just stared at the contents strewn across the ground and yet I always seem to fit everything in… and always seem to be able to carry it. For the most part. There are times when I just can’t squeeze anything else in and it’s always at the point where I need to pick up some other godforsaken piece of junk for someone… so do I leave their crap lying around and come back for it, or do I throw some of my own stuff away to make room? Nothing’s ever there when I go back for it so, rather than have to listen to any more of their whining, I’ll always chuck some of my own gear away to make room for their trinkets and bric a brac. It never gets any easier.

Blessings of Akatosh to you penniless and ill equipped stranger - would you like to overthrow some hell beasts while we run away with all our swords 'n' stuff?

What pains me the most though, what sticks in my throat more than anything else that makes this job sickening… is the utter idiocy. Nothing quite screams stupidity more than turning up at the gates of some village or other to be greeted by an entire army of men telling you that you can’t come in because someone’s only gone and opened up a hell mouth. Before you can even shrug it off and head for the next village, some lazy assed commander has roped you in to single handedly rid their village of this vile array of demons and beasts… because they weren’t capable of handling them on their own. Their army, of trained men with heavy armour and a plethora of weaponry at their disposal, wasn’t able to close this hell mouth and dispense of the creatures therein and yet they somehow think that this lone stranger arriving on their doorstep with no written credentials, no recommendations, and no formal training other than breaking out of prison through a sewer system to help Captain Picard to safety (and fail) can waltz in and do what they couldn’t. Whilst dressed in leather. With a rusty sword.

A man can dream.

Wasn’t easy but, of course, I still managed to take care of it. I always do. And that’s what grates the most… these people carry on with their lives feeling safe and secure that there’s a hero out there to take care of them and protect them from the evils of the world. A hero capable of closing hell itself, bringing Kings to rule, slaying dragons with a rusted old sword and walking thousands of accumulated miles for nothing more than a few coins here and there. But they’ll happily walk past me in the market square without the slightest knowing glance, unaware that this bedraggled rough looking man that they clearly find offensive to look at is the reason they live to see another day. Do they buy me a drink? Do they offer me a bed, even for one night? No. They never even ask my name.

Tomorrow is another lonely day.

Last five articles by Mark R



  1. Edward Edward says:

    A great piece of satire that’s also really poignant :)
    I really enjoyed this, great work Markuz! :D

  2. Adam Adam says:

    The Irony is..the bitterness will drive you to being the old loon in the back of the tavern spouting crap and making requests of travellers to do the crap you’re so fed up of :p

    A joyous read M

  3. Rich says:


    Loved it.

  4. Pete Pete says:

    A hero’s lament… great read dood! I’ve played umpteen RPGs over the years and never really thought past the mission at hand… won’t be able to do otherwise now lol

  5. Samuel Samuel says:

    Wow. First couple of paragraphs of this… the imagery, the wistful longing. It made me feel very sad. I would suggest that perhaps you might consider a further career writing fiction, but it occurs to me that not all of the sentiments presented here are entirely fictional. Or maybe I’m just projecting my own present mental state onto your words. I’m not entirely sure, there.

    Powerful stuff. There is a lot here to think about.

  6. Rook says:

    Where’s the riches, the beautiful women, the massive yachts???
    It’s a familiar tale of the unsung hero and does anyone offer to help you or ask you what you need?

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matthew Sylvester and GamingLives, A Caban. A Caban said: Protagony « Gaming Lives – Online gaming community with videogame …: Online gaming community offering gaming b… [...]

  8. Lorna Lorna says:

    Highly immersive, very true, and I really enjoyed it. The whole piece was infused with a sombre feeling, a melancholy which takes it far and away from the light-hearted play that it could have been, but it works. It was so believeable, because I certainly have had those thoughts while playing…especially sloping off to face the armies of darkness while everyone else who has weapons cowers behind a barrier or goes for doughnuts.

    The sad thing is, that he still does these quests instead of mining the gold himself, keeping the found riches, or getting a job int he tavern instead of risking his life. The weary, unsung part of that sort of character makes it all the more heart-wrenching and all the more absorbing, which is really the magic of stuff like that. Nothing deepens a character more than tragedy, or a tragic flaw.

    On a lighter note, perhaps it is time for a hero with more attitide or a realistic hero in an RPG game, where he settles his arse in a tavern, hires a saucy lady or gent, and tells the would be quest giver to bugger off and do it himself. Would be a very short game, but hey, I’d enjoy it.

    Love the Ferris Bueller references btw ;) As for Picard…cool name for a kid!

  9. Samuel Samuel says:

    If you and Mark ever have any children, you could always make it so. Heh heh.

  10. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Thanks for the comments guys, as always. Apologies for my lateness to the party… been a bit snowed under.

    @Rich – I’ve never had that “unfuckwittable” word used on anything ever, and probably never will again, but it’s now firmly established within my vocabulary. Thank you, sir!

    The thing about this whole article is that it wasn’t supposed to turn out like that. When I first came up with the whole idea of Protagony, it was going to be a rant. It was going to be written from the point of view of the typical game protagonist and how he despises the people that he was tasked by. If anything, it was going to be more of a comedic piece and a complete departure from what I’d normally write.

    When it came to it though, when I internalised and placed myself inside the mind of the protagonist, it wasn’t so much rage that I felt… but sadness, frustration, a thread of apathy but an overriding sense of duty and pride. It may hurt him beyond words to never be thanked, but the point of the hero is that they can’t help themselves and are driven to do exactly that – help, even if it’s devoid of any thanks. Hopefully it came across that it started off as being a very pensive thought in the protagonist’s head before the disdain crept in and tainted it… and then returning again to the sadness of knowing that it doesn’t really matter, because he’ll (or she’ll) continue to do it anyway.

    Again, thanks people :)

  11. Kat says:

    Loved reading this, excellent :)

  12. Jace says:

    Nice read, i’m off for a weep.

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