(ed: We considered running this piece as is but decided to have this little disclaimer for clarity’s sake. The following is an allegory in the style of Animal Farm or Plato’s Cave, but for gaming. Happy reading!)
Once there was a land filled with birds.
They soared in the skies for as high as they could go. Never a fear in the world, they lived a life they were proud of…a life they could tell their nestlings about. The skies one day changed, and the birds that once searched the skies for their next grand adventure found themselves needing to land on the ground. For a while the birds would simply wait on the ground, hoping for a change in the skies so they could once again feel the warmth of the current beneath their wings. For reasons few understand, the birds eventually lost the ability to fly. Some would try hard to fly, even managing to climb nearby trees hoping some distance between themselves and others would give them their wings back, but each time they jumped they would always fall. Eventually these once beautiful birds became rats, and the rats, fearing for their own survival, merged to become what was known as the Rat King.
Time went by, the skies became peaceful once again, and a new flock of birds was now seen within the sky. Some of these birds are but mere fledglings while others are an entirely new species of bird that has never existed in this land before. These birds came from a distant land that has had wonderful luck with their sky, and their population grew to the point that some birds decided to explore the world, feeling that that the strength in their wings and hearts would be enough to get them over every obstacle.
The Rat King hated having all these birds in his sky, hated how it was no longer able to fly, and it hated how the others had never lost their wings. Sitting on the ground, with nothing but rocks and pebbles to call its friends, the Rat King began to scheme on how to take back the skies it loved so much. It first tried knocking the birds out of the sky and absorbing them into its body. It believed absorbing a bird’s wings may be the secret to flying once again, and for a while this actually worked. The Rat King would grab a pebble, throw it at a bird, the bird would fall, and then it would absorb the bird. The first time this happened the Rat King gained a brilliant pair of wings that filled it with joy. It immediately took off into the sky. Twisting and turning the Rat King soared, all kinds of wonderful memories returned to it, then in one sudden return to reality its new wings broke, and the Rat King fell down again to the land it now despised. For a while the Rat King continued this pattern, it would hit a bird, consume it, gain another brilliant pair of wings that it believed to be worthy of the Rat King’s form and shortly after the wings would break again.
Time went by, far less birds now soared in the sky, but the few that did now flew as high in the sky as possible to avoid being hit the by the Rat King. The Rat King had run out of birds to consume and its body was now far too large to be supported by the wings that were now currently in its skies. Rat King eventually tried creating a new pair of wings out of pebbles and some newly discovered branches on the ground. Even though it somehow managed to make these branches and pebbles look like the wings it saw above and the ones it once owned, they never allowed the Rat King to travel far before snapping in half under the Rat King’s now excessive weight. The Rat King had become sullen at this point. It had deluded itself into thinking it was the greatest flier, and that everyone else was just copying what it had already started. Mad with desire the Rat King now began yelling at the birds, demanding payment for flying in the skies that it “owned.” The birds in return mocked the Rat King, saying that those who can’t fly have no right to demand things from those that still can. Some even in turn questioned if the Rat King had ever been a bird to begin with.
More time passed, and the skies changed once again to their violent nature. Fearing to land on the ground some birds tried to outrun the storm while those that weren’t able to fly so gracefully decided to take shelter in the cliffs, very far from where the Rat King sat on the ground. The storms were wild and the cliffs were unable to protect those that elected to stay behind. The birds decided to swallow their pride and ask the Rat King for protection in the storm. The Rat King stated, “If we give you protection, then in return once the storm is over we will want to fly high in the sky again.” The birds knew this meant becoming a part of the Rat King, but believed in their hearts that the Rat King would let them go if they served it well. The birds that survived the storm entered the shadow of the Rat King and their wings became its own.
One day the skies finally cleared, and became the lands the birds and Rat King had known for so long. The birds worked endlessly keeping the Rat King happy and using their wings to move its bloated body wherever it pleased. A great deal more time went by and these birds had begun to feel the strain of the weight of the Rat King. They requested to leave the Rat King, to be free to soar the skies as they once had done before. The Rat King refused, stating that they needed it as much as it needed them. The Rat King’s wings then broke and the cycle was renewed.
To this day we can still see the Rat King, it cannot fly, it can barely imitate the one thing in this world that it desires above everything else, and its entire existence is based upon eating those that are weaker than itself. Some birds shall try and find comfort in the Rat King’s shadow, some will mourn the sudden loss of their wings, other shall look at memories of how the skies once used to be, but all birds shall cry and pray for a day where the Rat King can be usurped. Once and for all.