I had been waiting for a while. I had searched for her everywhere. Yet I could not find her. So I just waited at that one place I hoped to see her, at the exit of Kirkwall, leading towards Cornwall.
As the sun began to drop, and the sky became darker, I began to lose hope. What if she had left a long time ago?
But then I saw her, walking towards me. She hadn’t noticed me, not yet. But as she did, she frowned, slightly, but kept moving forward.
“Hiro,” Arryn said, giving me the strongest smile she could muster.
“Arryn,” I responded, stepping in front of her, making her stop. She still wore the same clothing she had gotten from Lu. Couldn’t blame her though, it was a good material.
“Don’t try to stop me,” Arryn said, looking at me. Her eyes were focused on me, but I could see how her eyes were still red from all the crying.
I shook my head. “I’m not here to stop you. What you do, is entirely up to you. Do I think it’s a bad idea? Yes. But I can understand you. And I won’t stop you.”
“Then what do you want?” Arryn hissed.
“Around two hour of your time,” I said, looking at her. “Please. Just two hours. Maybe even less. And then you can go, and do your thing!”
“You aren’t going to lock me down?”
“Why would I?” I asked, taking one step closer to her. “Only thing I want, is you to find peace and happiness. And if this is the way you can find the peace, that’s alright. I only wish I could come with you.”
Arryn chuckled. “But you can’t because you’re the hero?”
“But I can’t because I’m the hero,” I said, nodding. “Please, Arryn. Just for a short time. Trust me. For old times' sake.”
Arryn looked at me for a moment and then finally sighed. “Fine. I’ll trust you. Don’t break my trust.”
I hugged her. “Thank you!” She was taken back but gave a slight hug back. “This way.”
It wasn't a too long walk - luckily for me. But we didn’t share even a single word. We just walked where I lead her. And that was fine. We didn’t need to talk. We had already talked enough.
And finally, we reached the destination.
“The Platinum Theater?” Arryn muttered, looking at the fancy design of the building. “Hiro, what are you-”
“Just trust me,” I said, taking us inside. Fred gave me only a nod, not stopping me. But many others who were coming to this place as well were stopped.
As we walked to the main waiting room, we began walking straight towards the stairs, leading up to the main hall. The waiting room was still full of people. Many nodded at us, recognizing me. But as Elwin noticed us, he walked in front of us and made us some way so we could pass all the others. I took hold of Arryn’s hand just to make sure we weren’t separated. Arryn blushed, just slightly, feeling all those looks on her.
And as we entered the main hall, we went straight for stairs. We went up only one floor before we were greeted by the same dwarf who had been at the beginning of the stairs the first time I had been there. With a slight bow, he let us through to the VIP section. At the very center of it, we could see Alice and Elbert sitting there, talking. As Elbert noticed us, he stood up, leaning on his cane, and took a few steps towards us. Arryn looked at Elbert, eyes slightly widening.
“Is that… Elbert?” Arryn asked.
“One and only,” I said, smiling.
“Hero - or should I call you Hiro, now? I and Alice had some wonderful talk,” Elbert said, looking at me. “And you must be, Arryn?” he said as he turned his gaze to her.
Arryn felt slightly awkward since she wasn’t wearing any fancy dress. But she did a slight bow.
“Welcome. Any friends of the hero is a friend of mine. Please, take a seat!” He took a step back, pulling a chair back for Arryn.
“I have to go now. I’ll be back before the very end.”
Arryn looked at me, an eyebrow slightly raised.
“Trust me. You don’t have to wait for me to return if you don’t want to. Just wait till… you’ll see.” As Arryn took her seat, I stepped closer to Elbert. “I can’t thank you enough,” I whispered.
“Please, stop. It’s a special day not just for you, but for me too. I can’t be happier.” With a slight nod, I stepped away.
I went to the side-rooms, where people were preparing for the stage, filled with some personal preparation rooms as well.
A man, in a fancy butler clothing, approached me, slightly nervous. “Hero! I was getting worried…”
“So did I. Is everything ready?”
“Yes. We could wait a few more minutes to-”
“The minute time is right, begin the show, so people would hurry and find their seat.”
As I began to go through the corridors, seeing occasional people who all said something to me as they recognized me, I just searched for the one door. Aldrynte. I gave a good hard knock on it.
“Yes?” a voice echoed from inside.
“It’s me,” I said.
I opened the door, entered, and closed it behind me. Aldrynte stood up from her make-up table, looking at me. She was wonderful and beautiful. A full red dress together with her red hair made her look fantastic.
“You’re beautiful,” I muttered as I took a few steps closer to her, taking hold of her hand and kissing it.
“I know,” Aldrynte said, smiling. “I had to make sure that I looked the very best.”
I smiled. “Excellent. It will be soon our turn. Are you ready?”
Aldrynte leaned closer to my ear. “It’s not my first time, Hero,” Aldrynte whispered.
I smiled, as well. “But it’s your first official, with me being your patron. It’s the first time you’re the main feature. I hope you’re at least a bit nervous.”
Aldrynte took a step back, smiling. “Maybe slightly. But I’m still ready.”
“Good,” I said, nodding. “I need you to be good since I’m about to piss myself.”
Aldrynte snorted. “Idiot.”
It took us a while until we heard a knock on the door. It was immediately opened after. “Please get ready,” the voice said. Both me and Aldrynte nodded, stopping our small talk.
We walked straight to the backstage, listening to the latest singer. I was even more nervous, heart throbbing.
Aldrynte hand touched mine, as she took hold of my small finger with her own. “It’s going to be alright,” she whispered, smiling at me. “You’re the hero. So there’s nothing to be afraid of.” I looked at her, forcing a smile. But she was correct.
And as the song ended, a man entered on the stage, the very same butler I had talked before. “Ladies, and gentleman. It’s finally time to begin our last, but main performance. And for that reason, I’d like to welcome to the stage, the hero.”
A massive clapping echoed to the backstage. The hall was filled with people, adventurers, and other rich folks. Of course, the introduction was planned exactly like that. I asked him to just introduce me as a hero.
I looked at Aldrynte one last time, giving her a wink, and finally walking towards the stage, to the stairs that lead me to it, forcing our fingers to be separated.
All the lights were on me, as every seat, besides the VIP second row, were filled with people. And that wasn’t all since many were standing, looking at me. I raised my hand, slightly, stopping at the very center of the stage. The theater turned quiet, as I was given a fancy-looking stone piece. I pushed it gently on my throat, as it got stuck on it. It was a voice-enhancing stone.
“Thank you. Thank you!,” I said, voice being a lot stronger than ever before. Every person could hear me. Of course, for performers, there were other means to enhance and strengthen the sounds. But for simple speeches, some simpler means were used, if any.
I looked at the second row, seeing Arryn still there, staring at me.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m truly honored to stand here, on this stage, at the greatest theater in the whole country. But… I only wish I would be standing here just for one reason - music. Of course, this is the main reason, but my other reason is to make an announcement.
“Many of you know already of the story that happened three weeks ago. A sad story where a goblin infestation got out of control. It was a tragedy, where many got hurt, many got mistreated, and many died.
“But we still got through it. Two hundred and nineteen goblins were killed, and many were captured. Last time a similar number was spoken was over fifty years ago. And back then, the consequences were a lot bigger. Tens of adventurers died. This time - only a few.
“But even that could’ve been avoided. And I regret to tell you all this, but this all happened because of the broken system of our adventurer’s guild.” As I said the last part, mumbles began to echo. It was mostly platinum adventurers who began to whisper, and most of them were visibly not happy with my declaration.
“But this is fine. Things that worked a long time ago, might not work today. And that doesn’t mean we can’t step forward and fix this. Change can be uncomfortable. It can be scary. But it is necessary.
“I feel that many who go to the other side of the wall have forgotten what it feels like to fight for the people. They go to the other side of the wall, fight and kill many demons, and think that they’re doing a great job by keeping the Demons at bay.
“And they are. But still, some people have problems inside the wall and seek the help which they do not get. And they suffer. And they die. But why should the higher-ranking adventurers care? After all, this is something that lower ones should deal with, right? But should they really deal with it alone? Should they risk their lives unnecessarily? Maybe the higher-ranking should also do some quests that might not be as profitable, but that will directly help the common folk? Maybe it will remind the highest-ranking, why they have become adventurers in the first place? Is it to kill demons, or to help people?”
There was yet another moment of pause, as the whispers traveled throughout the room. “Thus, we are changing some parts of the system of how adventurer’s guild works, mostly touching the higher-ranking adventurers. It’s their responsibility to keep people safe while leading and helping the lower adventurers in the process. It’s no longer all about killing the demons and keeping the wall safe. I assure you, the wall is safe. Only those gold and platinum adventurers who can do that, are allowed to go to the other side of the wall.”
There was a loud whispering throughout the chamber, as expected. I closed my eyes for a moment. It was finally done. It was something that Bill had taught me. It was the least I could do for him. And it was finally time for the other part.
As I opened my eyes, I looked directly towards Arryn. “A man died three weeks ago. For most of you, merely a boy. We infiltrated a dangerous place and learned things that could’ve to lead to a catastrophe. Maybe to even bigger catastrophe than the demons at the other side of the wall. Yet any of the platinum adventurers failed to see the dangers or the importance of this quest. Maybe because it was a mere goblin slaying. Or perhaps there were more important matters at hand. Yet Bill looked at it, saw the people who were in need of help, and got the quest, together with his two brave companions. And as we neutralized the problem, he sacrificed his life so his companions, and even I, could escape. It could’ve been an unnecessary sacrifice. He could’ve grown up into a great adventurer, saving many other lives. But he didn’t. And I feel ashamed as well since I couldn't stop him either. He didn’t save just our life, but possible all of your lives.
“He was a bigger adventurer than any of us.”
I could feel my hand shaking behind my back. I was fighting against the few tears that were trying to sneak out of my eyes. But I stayed strong, standing in place, still looking at where Arryn was.
“You might’ve noticed that none of the so far presented songs were about people. That’s because there’s only one true hero tonight, and his name was Bill.”
The room was dead silent. I turned around and began to walk towards the stairs, leading off the stage. At the same time, two people passed me, holding a beautiful chair and an instrument. Aldrynte stepped in front of me, just as got off the stairs. She immediately hugged me, kissing me on the cheek. “You did the right thing,” she murmured, continuing the walk up the stairs without looking back. “Leave the rest to me,” she said.
And as she entered the stage, there was no clapping, nothing, just silence. Aldrynte took hold of the lyre-guitar and got herself seated on the chair.
She looked at people, and finally at the VIP level: her father, Arryn, Alice, and Bill’s family. And the notes began to echo in the chamber. It was more of a sad sound if anything else. But the way Aldrynte moved her fingers, her arms were beautiful.
And then she opened her mouth and began to sing. It was a beautiful voice. I had only heard talks of her voice, but to hear it myself was something different. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was her sound, or because she was a dragon. But none of it mattered. There was no-one better to present that song.
Here’s a story of a wonderful boy,
who’s life wasn’t smiles and only joy.
He’s an adventurer like anyone else,
Yet nobody cares, shows any respect.
From one quest to another, he tries to help,
seemingly he should be gathering wealth…
..but there’s no wealth for him to gather.
There’s no wealth for him to gather.
The boy leaves others all the coin,
if others starve, what’s the point?
In the midsts of quests, a dangerous awaits,
yet others ignore - a huge mistake.
So the boy goes on and takes the quest,
and the road takes where the goblins infest.
But it’s too much for his party to handle,
so the boy feels his tingling life candle.
And as his light is blown out,
sacrifice for others, it’s all about.
It’s a reminder for many others,
a truth the boy had uncovered.
Even though he was truly weak,
and to many he seemed as a freak
but he still had more than many would seek,
things so many could only speak.
So many things they could only speak…
The people listened. Some of them were in tears. Some platinum adventurers weren't pleased. They almost felt like they were mocked. But most of them were just listening and appreciating the song. They were mesmerized by the music, by her voice, by the lyrics. And I only hoped that some of them would understand the meaning. I only hoped that it would spread amongst the many.
It wasn't a song about the top heroes or adventurers, but a song about the small adventurer, still saving the many.
And as the song ended, there was no applause. There was sniffing and there were tears.
Aldrynte stood up and gave a slight bow. As she did that, few tears hit the floor. The moment she had finished the song, she also teared up.
As I looked at the crowd from aside, I could see Arryn walking down the stairs from the VIP section, tears visible. But her eyes weren’t full of regret, and revenge. There was also appreciation and hope.
And that’s what we all needed.
Hope. Hope for the future.
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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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