The Truth Itself - Book One of the Wizard's First Law
The whistling winds howled down from the icy wastes, like jackals of evil preparing to collectively devour their prey. Richard Ninefingers hauled himself to his feet and wearily trudged on through the snow. It had been a month since he'd last eaten, drunk or slept, and his strength was beginning to give out. If only he still had his companions, at least he'd be able to kill and eat the weaker ones! He cursed uselessly at the fate that had separated him from his fellow warriors. He had only left them for a few hours, going off into the woods in a hissy fit about deserving victory or somesuch, and when he came back the camp was abandoned. Probably they'd been killed and eaten by commies; Richard knew in his heart that without him they were unable to defend themselves. He gave one last sorrowful (and hungry) look behind him, then struggled onwards through the snow.
The wind rose, and his gold cape fluttered around his knees, causing him to trip and fall on his face. The War Wizard outfit looked very impressive, but perhaps wasn't the best costume he could have chosen for his mountain trek. A chuckle ahead of him made him raise his raptor-like gaze from the snow. "Who's there?" he shouted, his thing beginning to rise.
"It is I, Malachus Fitch, apprentice to the First Wizard! I have been looking for you all over this wasteland - my master Zeddicuz needs you to save the world!"
"That wouldn't be... altruism?" ground Richard through teeth clenched in anger. Fitch backed off a pace.
"Well, that's the dilemna, isn't it? By saving the world you inadvertently help people... but by refusing, you are choosing death... what's it to be?"
Richard's mind raced. How could he selflessly go out of his way to help others? It went against all reason! But on the other hand, how could he let himself be killed? Slowly, a solution came into his mind, like rain on a campfire.
"I... could... save the world... if I only did it for myself?"
Fitch nodded firmly. "Of course! Master Zeddicuz is also only acting out of self-interest; he has no desire to be destroyed either. Now, shall we go? I'm hungry." He turned and headed back down the mountain.
"Me too," said Richard, licking his lips as he studied Fitch's departing back.
The bound man squirmed with terror in his chair. "Bring the pincers," said Inquisitor Nikta, watching dispassionately as hot iron burned into flesh. The smell brought back a pang of bitter memory.
Roast pork. How I used to love that. Not any more, though. Not now that I have to "respect" animals and can't bear to eat food with a face.
Practical Cara applied more pressure as the man screamed for mercy. Nikta snorted in disgust. "Mercy? I could tell you a few things about mercy. I used to be a fine, upstanding capitalist. My stocks and shares were the envy of all the Midderlands." She spat. "That was until I was captured by the pinko commie liberals. They taught me to be a vegetarian and to care about the ethics of my business. There was nothing I used to love more than to eat rare veal steaks with pate de fois gras while bankrupting my rivals with hostile takeovers, but now they've taken away my callousness and filled me with... guilt."
Cara's look of disgust was more than she could bear. "Finish him," she barked, then swept out of the chamber.
Richard and Zeddicuz strode into the city. All around them, feckless nobles and preening courtesans stopped what they were doing to watch this fine specimen of manhood stride amongst them. All this time, they had believed Objectivists to be sad, craven little men, but the sight of Richard's manly outfit and bristling yeard set many hearts a-fluttering. There was nothing silly about grown men poncing about in golden cloaks at all.
Zeddicuz hammered at the palace door. "Open up, in the name of the First Wizard!" he exclaimed.
The guard peered out suspiciously. "I see you've got a new apprentice," he said, eyeing Richard's get-up with obvious admiration.
"Ah yes, the unfortunate Fitch." Zedd glared at Richard. "He had an accident. My friend's self-interest goes even further than I'd expected."
Richard honestly couldn't see what the fuss was about. He'd chosen life, hadn't he? Strangely, even after explaining this to Zedd for several days, the old wizard wasn't entirely convinced, but Richard was working on a new speech that would definitely convince him. He opened his mouth to start, but then his jaw dropped open at the sight of a woman walking past.
Her hair was longer than any hair he'd ever seen. Her dress was the pure white of a shining goat. Her hips swayed seductively as she ambled along the road in the opposite direction to everyone else. Surely this was a woman he could love.
The guard cleared his throat. "Ahem, gentlemen, could I introduce you to my sister, Kahdee? Her individualistic ways are an embarrassment to us all." Kahdee smiled and gave Richard a wink.
"Er... would you mind if I asked your sister to guide me around the city?" asked Richard cunningly.
"Not at all," replied the guard, "but make sure she doesn't get almost raped. That happens a lot."
Kahdee looked at Richard's hands. "Why do they call you Ninefingers? You seem to have a full set."
Richard laughed. "Oh, they're not talking about my hands. They're talking about my collection!" He drew the grisly necklace out from his tunic, and Kahdee gasped with amazement.