"Would you like your name to be spoken through the ages?"
"You have this power?"
"I do. I could make you the greatest warrior to ever live, powerful beyond mortal ken... for a price."
"For the strength and skill of the gods, and the undying legacy of deeds on the battlefield that shall never know rival - are you willing to accept that you shall never live to see another victory?"
The price - and power - of magic. A catch, for there is always a catch. Yet he had dedicated himself to perfecting his art and craft, indeed, had come to her kingdom and performed valorous deeds specifically to illicit such an offer. The price was high indeed, and he would be have been lying to say he did not then have second thoughts.
Grip the future boldly, no hesitation - these were dictums he a warrior had lived by. Fear, and threat of imminent death were his constant companions - unsurpassed skill, unfading glory: these were far off dreams. Things one could aspire to but never really achieve.
"Then you will serve me."
Memories cling to life, and this was one that would follow him to the grave along with the face of the queen who spoke them. She was no longer young, though behind the lines and sunken cheeks one could still see the aged visage of faded beauty. She fit the stories that she had, no doubt, actively sought to cultivate; that she commanded such sorceries that she could make such claims; that she was a tyrant, keenly intelligent and utterly ruthless. He had known these things and yet still...
The world was full of such people. The Times were full of such people. But like the visage, all memories pass in time and we are recalled to the present. He stands amidst torn and tattered banners, and twisted corpses - the hacked and mangled remains of his butchery: the Queen's soldiers lay dead at his feet, lifeless eyes staring skyward. In the plains below he can see the battle which passed him by still raging: his army being swept from the field by the remnants of the Queen's.
This wasn't how it was supposed to have been. He is exhausted, and looking around, he can see he and only a handful of comrades remained: the remainder were being driven across the valley below. His legs refuse to work any longer. He sinks to his knees. Another memory...
"They've done nothing wrong."
"Yes; but they shall serve as an example to the rest."
Ruthlessness was one thing. The abject, and gratuitous cruelty to which she had made him witness was another. And yet, somehow, here on the plains of battle he had fought with the strength and skill of a god - and exhausted from the slaughter victory had...
"It seems you have come to understand at last. You were expecting glorious death as you took my head perhaps?"
It was not a dream or a memory this time but some spectral image of the Queen herself, smiling down on him with imperious, haughty eyes and a smile on her lips. It was like a joke that he had finally understood.
"You..." Her smile only grew wider at his sudden realization and rising anger.
"... Cursed you? Planned this? Knew you would go running to my wizarding enemies and bring their armies to me?"
There were no words to express his need to break the feeble woman over his knee, to break or kill something. And yet there he was, the greatest warrior to ever live - utterly and completely exhausted and helpless.
"Doom upon whatever cause for which you fight - this is the true nature of my curse. You serve me, remember? It was not a question."
"This isn't over..."
"You are no threat to me, cursed as you are. And you will never fight for my cause again - I was quite sure to poison you against me on that account."
"I'll find you."
"And no doubt your heroic but doomed exploits shall echo through the pages of history."
Laughter was on her face as the vision faded. Hatred teased his worn muscles back to life, and so it was that the hero rose once again to his feet and once again took up his sword.