Part Fourteen: The New Hero
THE NEW HERO
…When he next opened them, his head felt fuzzy. His thoughts were zigzagging around in his head and bumping into each-other. He was lying on his back…He could see a blobby green background above him. Leaves. Trees. He was in a forest.
There was a head against the background. It had dark green hair. A voice floated down to him from the head: ‘Berthond…You did it, Berthond…The clouds are gone…’ And Berthond closed his eyes again, to the sound of singing.
When he next opened them, he was nearly awake. ‘Steve’, he mumbled muzzily. ‘Who’s Steve?’ a familiar and un-Elven voice replied. ‘No, I’m Frestel. Remember?’ Berthond was now fully awake and listening. He was in a house back at the training camp, in a bed. Frestel was standing anxiously beside him, and Selebriar a little way behind.
‘Frestel.’ Berthond stared. ‘Um. Yes, that’s me. Um.’ Frestel looked uncomfortable. ‘You…You saved the world. You’re back. You’re alive. Um. I can’t believe you saved the world.’ Berthond blinked. ‘The Elf helped…’
‘Berthond.’ Frestel gave in and burst into tears. He hugged Berthond hard. ‘You’re back and you’re with us and you drove out the Darkness and oh my gerbils my brain is going to explode and trickle out my ears…’
Everybody was amazed to see Berthond, when he stepped out of the house. Everybody was cheering him, and pointing, and saying things like: ‘That guy saved the world…Maybe we should get his autograph’. But Berthond, still slightly dazed, ignored them and climbed to the top of the hill. He stood in front of his house. His big, empty house. No parents, no relatives…Just him. But he wasn’t completely lonely. Frestel had always been a brother to him. And now he had another sort-of-brother, with pointy ears. His family was growing bigger.
He looked up at the mountain. It was no longer the Shadamount, dark and menacing, with dark clouds swirling around the peak. He had done it. He had driven out the Darkness. He knew he was supposed to feel happy. But there was something missing…
Frestel came up behind him. ‘Selen told me all about it. How the other three died, and how you went into the mountain alone…You’re amazing.’ He looked down at his feet. ‘I could never do something like that…’
Berthond wasn’t listening. Suddenly, he spoke, in a faraway voice: ‘The mountain is back to normal. That means that the training camps are villages again. Friends will leave…Strangers will come pouring back in.’ He turned to Frestel, as if he had only just noticed his presence. ‘I’m going to ask if I can keep my house. You’re an orphan too. Do you want to move in with me? We could be the village guardians. Or something.’ Frestel grinned crookedly. ‘Yeah. Sure. Whatever. As long as we’re friends.’
All of a sudden Berthond realized what was missing. ‘Owl. I don’t have my Owl. The Owl you gave me.’ Frestel looked confused for a moment, then shrugged. ‘Oh, that. Selen thought it sort of evaporated when you used it to beat the Darkness. Don’t ask me how he knew that it was what you used.’ He smiled again. ‘Anyway, it was just sort of to remind you of home and me and stuff while you were away. Now that you’re back, and I’m here, you don’t really need it any more. I could make another if it would make you feel better.’ Berthond hesitated, then shook his head. ‘It’s okay. You’re right. I don’t need it now.’
His face brightened. ‘Also, I forgot to say: your little sister can move in with us too.’ Frestel’s face darkened. ‘Jinna is dead.’ Berthond stared. A voice off in the distance said, ‘There you are again, just standing there staring at people…’ Berthond wanted to throw a rock at the Elf. But this was more important. ‘How?’ He asked his friend. ‘Drakon fever.’ Berthond frowned. ‘Never heard of it’. ‘Well, now you have.’
Frestel sighed, and tried to smile. ‘Well, that was five months ago, so it’s all in the past now.’ Berthond frowned again. ‘Five months? How long have I been away? It only feels like a couple weeks. Then again, who’s counting?’ Frestel nodded. ‘I am. Or were. You were away exactly eight months, twenty-three days and seven hours.’ ‘Wow.’
There was a feast, as there always is to celebrate such occasions. Berthond was supposed to make a speech and write a poem, but he left those duties to Selebriar, since he was feeling exhausted. He went straight back home afterwards and dropped into his bed. He fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He hadn’t slept in a proper bed for eight months, twenty-four days and nineteen hours.
Two weeks later, Frestel moved in with him. The two boys and Selebriar formed a team, defending the borders of Belecostar from Evil, remembered for ever in song and legend. But Berthond was always remembered for the brave feat of defeating the Darkness, which is what this tale is about.
And now it is over.