"The Capital is being attacked?" the captain said, looking at the messenger, turning to gaze out of the window.
"No, not the capital, captain!"
"Oh, stop giving me heart attacks!" the captain responded, gazing at me for a moment, hands crossed. "So? Out with it!"
"Kirkwall, sir! They say that thousands of demons are walking towards the walls," the messenger said.
"Thousands?" the captain muttered.
"Thousands, sir. They are asking the hero."
Almost like a nightmare, the captain looked at me, smiling. "There's your first job as a fresh hero, it seems," he said. To be quite honest, I wanted to choke the guy and to run off. But if I wanted to go on a suicide mission, I would want to look cool, at least. It smelled like the beginning of the end. I was going to be the shortest and weakest hero to have ever existed.
"You can't handle even that?" I said, letting myself to fall down back on the bed. If I was going to die, I could at least pretend to be cocky.
"Well, some still think that you-"
"I brought them the head, and they still question it?" I said out loud, looking at the ceiling. At that point, I didn't care. None of it mattered. At least I was going to die as someone awesome.
But I was surprised. The captain I had talked a moment ago was slightly sweaty, and his voice was shaking. "No, I'm definitely not doubting. It's just that you did bring back four platinum heroes who were also well equipped. I personally don't doubt it. It's just that you vowed, and we might not be able to deal with that attack without a hero."
I sighed. "That's what I get for honoring dead heroes. Fine," I said, looking at the ceiling. At least I was going to delay going there as much as possible. Kirkwall was the furthest major city from the capital. Which reminded me of my home town. It was further out from the Kirkwall. A lot of humans thought of it the same as capital or at least adventurer's capital.
"How's Volcano's Outpost?" I asked, not gazing at the messenger to look more important.
"It was evacuated to the Kirkwood, Hero. Every outpost at the other side of The Wall was successfully evacuated. It was actually one of the towns that reported seeing the first demons. But since the demon king was recently defeated, we prefer to be more careful?"
"I see," I said, keeping up my serious face. I was happy that my home town was safe - even though I knew nobody over there - but it was more important to look like a hero who cared.
"I guess it would be best if I took it upon myself," I repeated myself. Within my calculation, if we were to hurry, it would take at least a week of travel there. The capital was literally the furthest city from the Kirkwall. But I could delay it at least a few more days with my skills.
What I didn't expect was the fact that moment I got my new fancy armory and weaponry together and followed the captain to get to my hopefully fancy horse, I was led into a larger, a slightly dusty room instead.
"Shouldn't we hurry to our horses?" I mentioned it out loud as I looked at the captain.
"What? Oh, right. We are teleporting you there," the captain responded, smiling.
A bunch of wizards were in a circle at the center of the room, making some motions, muttering something. A bunch of * costly* gems disappeared, and a large portal replaced the jewels.
Fuck... my... life...
"By the way, I never asked your name," I said, as I took a step towards the portal, quickly looking over my shoulder.
"It's Rollan, Hero," the captain said.
"I see. My name-"
"The portal is closing, please hurry!" one of the wizards shouted, interrupting me.
"Off you go!" The captain hurried, pushing me towards the portal.
And without saying my name, once again, I was in yet another new dusty room, assumingly somewhere in Kirkwall.
I had forgotten the fact that the country definitely was rich enough to afford bullshit like that. Everyone knew that portals were stupidly expensive. Only dwarves could use them more freely if they needed. But even the wealthiest would only use it as the last emergency. The country, however... yeah.
As expected, I wasn't alone. They would never give me a chance to run away. Always surrounded by strangers. It was a dark round room - like before. In front of me stood two guards with torches, and an older man in a butler uniform.
"Hero, I presume?" a slightly croaky voice said, adjusting his monocle on his eye to read something from the barely-lit paper. "The Hero is to be forwarded straight out of the gates to meet the demon's leader. Signed by the mayor."
As a side note, sometimes I wondered why all those butlers had to be described similarly. The same uniform and that monocle. It wasn't even funny. Every single one of them.
"Oh? And the mayor didn't even bother to come and say hi to the new hero?" I said out loud with a voice that seemed like I was just talking to myself.
"I'm sorry. It seems that the mayor's hand is full of work thanks to the hero who saved the world. He only needs to make sure that the Kirkwall's wall won't fall," the butler said, giving a slight bow. "I'm truly sorry," he said, almost seemed like sarcastic.
I frowned. To be quite frank, I was desperate. I had planned to take a long way to that city, but I was already there, and now I was forwarded straight in front of the demons.
"Are the armies ready to fight alongside me?" I asked the obvious question.
"I'm sorry, but you're going alone, for starters," the butler said.
It took a lot of effort to do nothing and pretend like it was nothing. "Why?" I asked after a short silence.
"That was the message demons threw at us. They won't attack us as long we send the hero alone. They want to... you," the butler explained, looking towards one of the guards. The guard immediately gave his torch to the other guard and began opening a huge paper piece.
We want to meet hero. Won't attack, giving time.
Traitors. All of them.
"Are you serious? We should gather our troops and-"
"I think that's impossible. Most adventurers and defense are still gathering. This is a lot bigger number of demons than we had ever anticipated. There are simply not enough fighters, or it would be a suicide mission. So we have to ask you, the hero, to buy us some time," he said.
I couldn't help but begin laughing. This was bullshit, all of it. No wonder there were so many tales where heroes didn't have a long life span. They died soon after defeating the evil. In the end, they became just a sacrificial tool. Perhaps most people couldn't wish anything else but to die in glory, but not for me. I didn't have an option. That's it. If I were strong, I could refuse, and perhaps escape. But I was weak. I was nobody. Even that butler could stop me.
"Sure," I said, sighing. "You guys are pathetic. But sure. I'll defeat that demon army for you," I bluffed, laughing.
"I am... sorry," the butler muttered.
As we left the castle, I saw it for the first time. Kirkwall's wall. Or just 'The Wall' as most adventurers would call it. The city was named after the human's king who according to the legend got most of the major races together to build this wall. It was the wall that every adventure talks about. Every story has The Wall in it. It's where the adventure begins.
For me, it was slightly funny. I was born at the other side of the wall, yet I had never seen the wall. I saw it for the first time, as a hero.
"Hero?" the butler said, looking at me.
"Ah, yes?" I said immediately, looking at the butler.
"The way you look at the wall seems... intriguing," the butler said.
"I just remembered when I saw it for the first time," I lied, laughing weakly. "Do you know the history about the wall?"
Butler couldn't help but snort. "Who do you think I am?"
"Is it true?" I asked straight away, looking at him.
"Which one? There are so many legends," the butler said.
"The official," I said. If I was a hero, at least I could pry some information before my death.
The butler sighed. "The dragon-elven-human-orc-dwarf contract?"
I responded with a quick nod.
"Yes, it's true," he said. "As far as I know, at least."
"All of it?"
"So-so," the butler said. We both now walked towards the main gate, but it was still quite far away. Even though the streets were full of people, I barely noticed them, only wanting to grasp the history of the world.
"Very well. You are the hero, after all," the butler said, sighing. "Long time ago, the world was in chaos. Evil beings traveled around the main continent," the butler barely began.
"Yes, I know the basic start. The monsters were a problem and all races needed solution. Get to the main story," I said, overly excited.
"Right," the butler said. With a long sigh, he continued.
"So, humans took upon themselves to do the first meeting with every race. Almost every major race presentative gathered. Humans, orcs, dwarves, elves, centaurs, fairies, and even the biggest surprise - dragons.
"But only five races of them all agreed to do something about it. After a lengthy discussion, a decision was made - an agreement. This city used to be a major choke point for the travel between the evil's domain and everything else. So, all races worked together to push monsters further back than this point.
"And they did, just to deal with the real part of the contract - building The Wall, splitting the continent into two to give every civilian a chance for a simple, healthy life. After that, every race had a role in the agreement.
"Dwarves promised to provide every stone to the wall, maintaining it. They would never ask any price for not even a single stone piece. It worked out for dwarves as well since their city, Kul Tarum, deep inside their mountains, had problems where to put all their excessive stone. So they were more than eager to provide the material.
"Since orcs were natural builders and had the strength, they agreed to build the wall, maintain it and keep the watch on the wall.
"Elves had always been... wise. They lived a long life, but there weren't that many of them because of their... breeding problems. But they did agree to keep the inner parts of the continent safe. They would hunt down every single demon that managed to stay on the main continent, and also those who would danger the peace.
"Since dragons are rare, but they possess potent magic, they made the unbreakable contract and promised to make sure that the agreement would be honored. To be quite honest, nobody has seen the dragons for centuries, so some think it's a myth. Others believe that they only show themselves when it's necessary.
"And finally humans - the shortest life span, but with the most significant numbers - took on the biggest task of them all, cleaning the other side of the wall, in hopes to one day destroy the evil once and for all.
"And whoever destroys the demon's king will be given the greatest title of them all..."
"...a hero," I finished, looking in front of myself, feeling cheated. I didn't deserve that title. I stole that title.
"Yes," the butler said. "Adventurer's guild was created so the humans would feel like it was worth it and keep themselves motivated. The title hero was thought out, which even other races began to respect. And in a long turn, even other races began to take part in the adventurer's guild. Especially dwarves. There has been one case when a dwarf became a hero."
"Raikou the Great," I muttered. "I have read books about him. He has a statue in the Kul Tarum," I muttered.
"Elves never admit it, but even they are slightly jealous of dwarves. Maybe that's why there are more elven adventurers nowadays," the butler said, chuckling. "I have told this story to innumerable children. Didn't think that I would tell this to a hero," the butler said, suddenly stopping in front of the main gate. There was a sound of metal as the gate began to open itself slowly.
I sighed, looking through the gate's bars. "Hey, look at me. I'm barely an adult," I said, laughing. I was really young, barely 19.
"Youngest hero ever. What's worth, I think sending you alone is a stupid idea and a huge mistake. You defeated the great evil. If you could nurture your powers more, you could-"
"It's fine," I said, raising my hand dramatically to stop him. "It's the job of the hero to make sure citizen are going to be fine. If I can't defeat them, at least I'll buy some time." With a quick spun, I walked towards the gate, wind blowing against me, swirling my cape behind my back just to make me look more impressive.
At least I had to look fucking cool. And if I'm going to die already, at least, I'll look like a hero, like a champion. At least that butler will tell stories about me to the next set of children.
And after I had walked through the gate, I was back at the other side of the wall, where I had born. I knew I would get back beyond the wall. I didn't expect it to be that soon, but I still knew it.
Of course, it comes without saying that I worked against every temptation to look back. Cool guys - especially heroes - don't look back. Maybe after I'm very far away, I might take another peek at the wall. But right now I knew that every orc and human on that wall was looking at me.
I was their champion.
And then I saw them. I'm not talking about tens or hundreds, but thousands of demons standing far away, probably looking at me as well.
Being in the middle of both, I threw a last look back at the wall. It was an endless wall with a single gate. It was also stupidly tall wall. Small lights were at the top, probably guards who were looking at me.
A smirk goes over my lips. At least I didn't die in my room, but I could experience this. Perhaps this was my only quality - I had guts. I managed to keep myself composed, even if every odd was against me.
I couldn't help but remember the salt on the table - an ill omen. I did throw it over my shoulder- why wasn't that enough?
I had to stop, as one colossal demon began walking towards me as well. So, as he stepped close to me, I started to think about how to look more badass. There was nothing else I could do anyway. So, I unsheathed my too heavy sword - which I barely managed to hold in my hand - and pushed the tip against the ground, resting both of my hands on top of it. I made sure that my legs were just enough apart from each other so I would look slightly cooler. I was giving style points to myself.
It had to be exactly like in my thought out stories.
The demon stopped in front of me, examining me, leaning slightly down to stare at me. I looked up but didn't do anything. If the demon decided to hit me right there, I would be probably dead.
"You are... hero?" the demon asked loudly, looking at me. Every word felt heavy but strong. It was a tall demon, human shaped. But their skin was burning, almost like a heated up charcoal, someone occasionally blowing their breath against it. Two horns came from the side of his head. Their hair and beard were almost like burning, or perhaps they were just that color, I couldn't understand.
Every thought screamed to run away or to say that I wasn't the one he was searching. But my brain knew that it was the only weapon I had - the title. Nothing else.
"That's me. What's up?" I said casually, stretching my shoulders slightly to show that I didn't even bother to keep up my guard.
"You look... puny and weak. Yet you defeated our master?"
I smirked. "It's not the size that matters, you know?"
What I saw surprised me. The demon smirked. "You humans make funny jokes."
I couldn't help but raise my eyebrows. "What? You could understand it?"
"It's a joke about a penis, isn't it?" the demon asked, grinning.
I looked at him, snorting. "I'm surprised. I didn't think that you'd..."
"Many of us are huge fans of your culture. We just have..." - the demon gazed at the wall - "...something huge on our way. But maybe it's better. Many of us can't handle the excitement and might accidentally crush you, puny humans."
I gasped some air. Suddenly many stories in my mind were collapsing. All those ideologies that demons were those pure evils, only evil were collapsing.
"Aren't you all demons? You don't seem like ones. Demons are supposed to be the evil incarnation.""
"Demons?" the demon said, looking at me. He began to laugh. "Don't compare us with those things. Well, they also inhabit this part of the island, and some of us are enslaved under them, but we hate them. They enslaved our children and us. They force us to create weapons of destruction and fight for them."
I facepalmed openly. I couldn't help but do it. "Who are you then?" I asked.
"Well. You can call us fire giants!" the fire giant said, finally sitting down to have a better look at me.
I sighed, once more. "And you never told that to any humans?"
"No," he said. "They wouldn't talk to us. You're the first human in centuries to speak with us. They usually attack first, and never ask questions. It's either we end up dead, or them.
I frowned. "And you never thought of not killing humans, but capturing instead and talking afterward?"
The fire giant stopped and began to think. "Few have tried. Then the other humans think that they will save them and still attack us. At least demons only punish us if we do something bad."
To think that those 'demons' were just misunderstood fire giants. How funny. After centuries of history, nobody ever thought of thinking that maybe not all of them are not demons?
"So? Why did you ask me here? Why do you want to fight with me?"
The fire giant tilted slightly, looking slightly confused. "Fight?" he asked. "Oh no. We wanted to thank you. You killed our master who was enslaving us. Now we are free. After we heard that he had been slain, we decided to fight ourselves free. We are here to thank you and ask you if you'd want to become our leader?"
I looked at him, eyes widening. I burst into laughter.
"What?" the giant asked.
"It's nothing. Forgive me. Why me?"
"Well, if you don't become our leader, we have to fight between ourselves to find the new clan leader to survive on this continent. But we thought we should first ask our savior to become the leader!"
I looked past the fire giant, examining thousands of the fire giants. "There are so many of you..."
The fire giant looked back and began laughing himself. "Oh no. That's Balbaru. He can do magic. He is creating this illusion like there were many of us. He thought you puny humans would take us more seriously if we looked like an army.
I frowned once again. "Well, let me tell you, it did work. They are shitting themselves behind me right now," I said. I finally tried to lift up my fancy sword to sheathe it, but immediately abandoned that idea after I discovered that I couldn't do it without looking awkward.
"How many are there?"
"There's twenty-four of us, right now," the fire giant responded.
"Fine. I agree to become your leader," I said, smirking.
"Oh, it's too bad that you- oooh?" the fire giants looked surprised. Even he hadn't expected that.
"I said sure. I'll become your leader. I think I can put you into good use," I said, smiling. It might've been a stupid idea, but that was my only way of survival.
I didn't know what challenges destiny would throw at me, but I needed some allies. I needed someone to do the fighting for me. I needed to look like the final boss - except nobody should ever be able to reach me and fight me. I needed to build a wall that cannot be destroyed.
"By the way, my name is-"
"Oh, hero. No. Master! Thank you. We will serve you. We shall follow you. I prefer this so much over going back in there and start fighting against others of my kind. Thank you so much."
For my surprise, those fire giants were not that confident. But beggars aren't choosers. It was my adventure, and I needed to start somewhere.
And perhaps, in the end, my adventure did begin after passing The Wall for the first time. I only wish it had been a different cliche circumstance.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
You can read my stuff and shorts at reddit.com/r/Elven
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