Roxanne adjusted herself in her “professor” clothes; finding clothes that fit her Amazonian physique was always a challenge for her. She was trying to dress “professorially” – wearing a long black skirt, white dress shirt, and red sweater vest. She was even wearing glasses! However, she would not part with her signature waist-length hair braids; getting them together was too much effort.
As an Associate Professor at the University of Albrook, Roxanne was only teaching one course this semester: “Ancient History of the Mana Dimension.” If she did really well she could get more classes next semester, and maybe even a tenure track position. As a thousands-year-old Valkyrie she had amassed some comfortable wealth, but she was far from rich, and definitely had to worry a little bit about money so long as she lived in this modern web. Her Kuat Valkyrie sports car, and her elaborately themed apartment, did not come cheap. (Though, she would be able to budget things more easily once Osprey and Terry found their own place.)
Her class had about forty students, and, since this was Albrook, there were people from all over the Web. There were, of course, some Mana Dimension natives, though as many as you’d think – this was an intro-level class, and most Tasnicans, Pandorans, and Kakkarans would already have a passing familiarity with the material. A lot of students were just here for a requirement – U of A required all students take at least two courses on the culture or history of a dimension other than their own.
Today’s topic was Belgememnon the Unforgettable, the famous Taznikanze hero who founded the Tasnica Republic. Roxanne didn’t really prepare for this lecture too much; after all, she was there .
“So, Belgememnon’s army was defeated by the King of Norfrest,” she said, recounting a famous incident. “They were surrounded and clasped in chains. They were probably going to be sold into slavery. But Prince Hendre of Norfrest offered the defeated army a deal: they would all go free, provided one of them identify the person or the corpse of ‘the leader of this rabble…the one they called Belgememnon.’”
One of the students raised a hand. “Didn’t he KNOW which one Belgemenon was?”
“This isn’t like today,” said Roxanne. “It wasn’t like he could do an OmniNet search. Remember, Belgememnon was a merchant, and not even a very successful one. It was his vision of a united, free Republik Taznikanze that brought people together. This had never been done before – the Taznikanze were highly individualistic. In the past, they had only been united briefly, under warlords like Kedir the Black or Harsdrubal the Hammer…and as we talked about last class, it was never lasting.” Roxanne gave her a class a disapproving look – surely they had reviewed the material from before?
“Anyway,” continued Professor Zodsdottir, “these warlords, that we talked about last week, were all great warriors. They kept people together because they were winning battles and conquering stuff. Belgememnon had just been defeated ; the Kingdom of Norfrest thought that would shatter the threat of a Taznikanze Horde. So what happened next was remarkable. The Prince Hendre, as I said, offered to spare the Taznikanze from being sold into slavery, if they identified Belgememnon. Now, Belgememnon knew that slavery was a terrible fate for any free Taznikanze. He was determined to prevent it, to save his people. So he stood up to turn himself in, but before he could, his companion Brynjar – Gudbrand’s fighting son – stood up and shouted, “I am Belgememnon!” at the same time as Belgememnon himself. Then it was the turn of Hertha, Eira’s noble daughter. “I am Belgememnon!” she shouted. And one by one, each warrior of his host stood, declaring themselves to be Belgememnon.”
“But, Professor Zodsdottir,” asked one student, a bespectacled moogle from Kuvalla. “I don’t think it happened that way.”
“What do you mean, Kualan?” asked Roxanne. She was a little offended, but tried to hide it under a mask of academic objectiveness. “What makes you think it didn’t happen this way?
“Well,” said the student, “there’s not really any supporting sources for it.”
“The saga Belgememnon the Unforgettable itself – which was your reading for this week – recounts it happening that way,” said Roxanne.
“Well, is the writer a credible witness?”
“The skald Steindor – Solmund’s honorable son – was there himself. It’s an eyewitness account!”
“And he had every reason to embellish!” said Kualan. “Belgememnon was his friend, and more than that was the subject of his epic saga. He had to make him a larger than life myth to cement the new Republic.”
“You would dare doubt the word of the noble skald Steindor!?” asked Roxanne, shocked. “This is a man who had fought besides Harsdrubal the Hammer, who had seen the whole known world, and spoke every known language of the ancient world?”
“Well,” said Kualan, “our only source for what Steindor was like is Steindor himself…is it possible that he exaggerated his own accomplishments, too? I mean, I’m not sure I know of any peer-reviewed article from a reputable scholar in this field that actually substantiates his claims. And most scholars think the ‘I am Belgememnon’ story is apocryphal, too….I was reading an article from Professor Meckstein of the Palmerston School, and tries to reconstruct test elements of the saga using archaeological methods. He finds a lot of discrepancies.”
Roxanne was a bit at a loss. She had actually known Steindor, and had been at the battles for the founding of the Republic. “Consider, Kualan,” she said, “this was an age undreamed of. Steindor, Belgememnon’s chronicler, may not have had a PhD, he may not have been published in Mana Historical Monthly….but he was a part of the spirit of this legendary age. What he says tells us more about these days of high adventure than any egghead today.”
“More even than you, Professor?”
Roxanne smiled. “Well, I’m a bit of an anachronism,” she said, “I think sometimes I was born for the wrong time…though, I suppose, there are plenty of legends and heroes that walk the Web today.”
“But the ‘I am Belgememnon’ story,” asked Kualan, “is it true? Obviously you can’t tell whether or not something like that happened from an archaeological dig…and Steindor is the only surviving contemporary account.”
Roxanne thought about how to answer it best; of course it happened, she was there . “I suppose,” she said, “for those who believe in the legend of Belgememnon, there’s no question what happened. And if you don’t believe in his legend, well, he was only a man, and it does not really matter if it happened.”