What's in a Name

When Olaf Lungren offended the local Scribe's Guild, they retaliated by sticking his only son with the name "Dolt." And because they had written the name, "Dolt Lungren," on holy parchment, the name was now immortal. He was stuck with it for the rest of his life and all those lives beyond it.

Names were important to Dolt's warrior clan. A warrior shouted his name as he charged into battle, both to let his enemies know the author of their destruction and to alert his ancestors that he might be joining them soon. To have an immortal name, even a stupid one, was the greatest honor to which a wandering axe-slinger like himself could aspire.

Nonetheless, Dolt hated his name, and when he heard tales of a renegade Scribe with the power to change a man's name, he journeyed many days to an isolated mountain hut to seek him out. He arrived just in time to witness a distant clan mate dump the last shovel of dirt on the old Scribe's grave and kneel beside it in prayer. Dolt knelt beside him to pay his respects.

After awhile, the other man stood. He was much older than Dolt and there were many strands of gray and silver in his shoulder-length black hair. The light gray scars of battles past criss-crossed his tough brown skin. The tattoos on his arm and chest told Dolt that he too was a member of the Clan of the Great Wolf. The older man waited for Dolt to speak.

Dolt stood. "I came seeking the services of the man who has just left us," said Dolt. "I heard he had the power to change a man's immortal name."

"And your name is...?" prompted the older man, studying Dolt through hazel eyes.

"Dolt Lungren," said Dolt, tensing as if challenging the other man to make something of it.

The other man merely nodded. "To undo an immortal name is to undo all the deeds, good and ill, and the very existence of he who bears it. He did not have that power. No one does."

"I had heard..." began Dolt.

"You heard wrong," the warrior assured him. "He was a slippery old snake whose only real power was in his treachery. I too came to him hoping he could change my name. Instead he betrayed me and made me his slave." He spat on the fresh grave. "Let us go inside and finish the old man's food and wine. He has no further use for it and I don't want it to go to waste. I will tell you the story."

Dolt followed the warrior into the wooden hut. The place was a shambles and the entire back wall had been reduced to splinters. The ground outside the shattered wall was smeared with drying blackish-red gore that led several yards to the edge of a high cliff.

Dolt sniffed. The thick scent that lingered was one that he had encountered before. "Gydra?" he asked.

The warrior was busy raiding the remaining food stores. "Most of its corpse is at the bottom of the cliff. The rest is in the corner," he affirmed. A pair of severed reptilian heads the size of sheep's heads stared glassy-eyed into space from near the fireplace. "Fortunately, just a quadruple-header."

Dolt nodded. The one he had faced a few years prior had had fully four times as many heads, and it had taken an army to bring it down.

"Here," said the warrior. "Eat. Drink." The meal offered consisted of a few strips of dried meat, a bowl full of vegetables of some sort, bread, and a half-pot of gruel. There were also three jugs of wine.

The two Barbarian warriors ate in silence until Dolt reached for the gray jug of wine.

"I wouldn't drink from that one," said the other man. "It may still be drugged."

Dolt looked at him questioningly.

"I drank from that jug one night..." he explained.


When I awakened (the warrior told Dolt), Scribe Vernim was sitting in his chair by the fire, with a smug expression on his wrinkled face. Suspecting the worst, I reached under my armor for my heart pocket and felt my immortal name, safe in its jacket.

The old man cackled. "I'd have a look at that, if I were you."

I drew the skin jacket from my heart pocket and lifted the flap. Inside was a scrap of holy parchment, but I knew it wasn't mine. I unfolded the parchment to see what was written.

"You come to Scribe Vernim for a new name. You eat my food and drink my wine," he said wagging his gnarled finger at me. "Well, now you have a new name! Now you are Hymie Ladydainties!"

"You miserable son of a scavenger beast!" I shouted and reached for my knife.

I would have gutted him like a trout, but he was one step ahead. He reached into the sleeve of his blue Scribe's robe and pulled out the name he had taken from me. "Perhaps you would prefer to have your original name back after all?" he offered.

"Yes! Damn you!"

"Or perhaps..." he glanced threateningly at the fire in the fireplace.

"No!"

"Then, if you want your name back, Hymie Ladydainties, you will have to earn it! The Scribe has spoken!" he slipped my name back in his sleeve and that's the last I saw of it until this morning.

He held me in servitude for years, sending me on quest after quest to collect succubi wings, dragon fangs, goblin toes, and the gods only know what else. The bastard made sure they were always combat missions, so I'd have to shout my cursed new name whenever I went into battle: HYYYYYMIEEEEE LAAAAADYDAAAAINTIES! Many of my foes died laughing, but they died nonetheless.

But each time I returned to Scribe Vernim, it was the same story: "Your performance has been adequate, Hymie Ladydainties," he'd say. "But you have not earned your name back yet. The Scribe has spoken!" And within a week I'd be off on some other dangerous and foolish mission for his amusement.

Finally, a month ago, he sent me off to fetch him the head of a gydra and I got lucky. Normally, one would not consider anyone tasked with hunting a gorgon-hydra hybrid lucky, but fortune did smile on me. The gydra I found was a young one, just establishing its territory. It had only four heads and measured perhaps ten feet from snouts to tail. Most importantly, its territory was not far from Scribe Vernim's hut. After observing the creature for a few days, I hatched a plan.

I traveled several more days down from the mountains to Riparia, where I worked as a sword-for-hire until I had enough money to buy a belt full of anti-petrifaction salves and a few yards of good, stout rope.

I returned to the gydra's territory and smeared the magic salve all over myself, knowing that it would lose its effectiveness quickly. I found the beast and this time, instead of merely observing it from the bushes, challenged it with my hated battle cry.

"HYYYYYMIEEEEE LAAAAADYDAAAAINTIES!!!!" I howled. I caught the creature by surprise and before it realized what was happening, my enchanted two-handed sword sent one of its heads bouncing down the rocky canyon floor.

The remaining three heads were none too pleased with that and each let loose with a spray of deadly mist. You know the breath of the gydra can turn flesh to stone, and I could feel the protective salve stiffening under the assault. Fortunately, it held and I rolled out of the way as all three heads struck at me, their fangs dripping with venom.

I got to my feet and ran. I could have defeated it with my sword, but I had a larger plan to keep. Besides, who cared if Hymie Ladydainties fled from a foe? If all went as planned, that would not be my name for much longer. As expected, the monster turned and pursued me down the canyon.

What I hadn't expected is just how nimble the beast was. It was just as fast as I, and with four legs to my two, much more sure-footed over the rocky canyon floor. It drew close enough to hit me with its breath several times and, each time, I felt more of the enchanted salve stiffen and flake away.

When I reached the base of the cliff below Scribe Vernim's hut, I quickly began to scale the rock wall. I had hoped to put a little distance between myself and it climbing the cliff, but to my dismay, the thing climbed like a gecko.

Somehow, I managed to pull myself over the top of the ledge ahead of the gydra. When the gydra cleared the top of the cliff, I was ready with my rope. When the three heads struck at me again, I threw the heavy loops over its necks, vaulted up on the creature's shoulders, and pulled the noose tight. I coiled more rope around its necks even as it bucked and lashed at me with its tail. Once the necks were securely bound, I climbed up higher and tied the beast's snouts shut and pointed them directly at Scribe Vernim's hut.

Then I let him know I was back: "HYYYYYMIEEEEE LAAAAADYDAAAAINTIES!"

The monster and I crashed through the back wall of the hut, waking the old man from a sound sleep. I steered the gydra straight at him and then pulled back hard on the rope when the gydra's noses were less than a foot from him.

"I've brought you the gydra head you requested, old man!" I shouted. "Which one do you want?"

He was singing a different tune now that I'd completed this quest. "Don't let it get me!" he begged.

"Give me my name back."

"Yes! Yes! Of course!" he fumbled in his robes. "Here!" He thrust the parchment at me and the gydra's six eyes tracked the sudden movement with hungry interest.

I locked my legs more firmly around the gydra's necks and then picked the parchment out of Vernim's bony hand. "Say it!" I told him.

The words came out in a panicked rush. "By the power vested in me, I Senior Scribe Vernim, grant thee thy Immortal Name!"

Everything was still for a moment, even the gydra.

"Say it." I breathed.

"The Scribe has spoken," finished Vernim.

Then the gydra jerked its heads down hard and threw me off. It didn't matter. When I stood again, I had the immortal name I was meant to have and I let my foe and the gods know it: "BIIIILLLLLL LAAAAADYDAAAAINTIES!"


"I swung my enchanted sword and decapitated the gydra twice," Bill Ladydainties told Dolt. "Unfortunately Scribe Vernim was standing a little too close on the back swing and was decapitated as well." He shook his head. "A shameful mistake for a warrior of my experience," he said without a trace of remorse.

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