The Hero's (Shorter) Fall

The Hero's (Shorter) Fall

A Chapter by Scott Free
"

Poor Mallan. He gets...um...kicked around, in this chapter. :(

"

 Mallan grabbed the fellow around his scrawny neck and flung him to the ground. 

“Alright,” Mallan growled down at the prostrate yeoman, “what mischief have you been doing with that crossbow of yours?” 

The man rubbed his foul rabbit-skin shirt and tried to flash a nervous smile up at his captor.

“Nothing, your greatness, nothing! And that strange smell emanating from my hut has absolutely nothing to do with it, my lord! I assure you!” 

Mallan sniffed the air. “Have you been...cooking birds?” 

“Definitely not, your greatness.” 

Mallan turned about and gazed at the hut built into the mountainside that was, presumably, the poor sod's home. Then he turned back and frowned. 

“Have you been shooting carrier pigeons?”

The man's eyes opened wide. “Nonono sire nonono it's not what you think! I'm starving! I haven't been able to trap anything for the last two days and I saw those pigeons roosting, taking a rest and I'm sorrysorrysorrysorrysorrysorry!” 

Mallan's brow furrowed and his eyes nearly shot sparks. There was nothing worse than breaking the law, unless it was breaking the law in a way that made it seem like you weren't breaking the law, such as lawyers and bureaucrats did. 

“You know that hampering the Post Office's pigeons is a crime against Archipelagean Law, don't you?” 

“I'm so sorry, sire,” the poacher wailed, “I repent! I give myself up!” 

Mallan's face lightened almost immediately. He smiled. “You do? Oh! That's alright, then. Here, let me help you up and I'll take you to jail, and everything will be alright. You'll love it there, I know you will.” He reached out with his hand. 

Mallan was an honorable man. He was a hero. He did heroic things; he didn't take advantage of young ladies or ambush an opponent. Some would call him stupid or overly self-protective, but he simply had a strong moral code. 

The man he was helping up did not. That's why he kicked Mallan in a place he wasn't protecting. 

Mallan crumpled to his knees, horrified at the poacher's disregard for ethics and at the pain coming from between his legs. 

“Ha ha, stupid hero!” the poacher called back as he hurried away into the forest. “I bet you'll never have kids now, ha ha!” 

Mallan's face hit the ground, and he mumbled, “Don't wanna have kids.” 

He laid on the ground for several minutes, his eyes crossed, waiting for the pain to subside. Then he rolled over and sat up. 

“Lords of the Sea,” he said, “what a horrible little man!” 

Mallan's sense of duty was not as damaged as his manhood was, and so he stood up and limped into the hut. He shook his head and whistled. Four pigeons were roasting over a spit—Royal Carrier Pigeons, of the King's breed. Mallan felt anger rush through his blood, but he quelled it. Heroes weren't supposed to get angry. 

The man's attention was drawn to a corner of the hut. Lying in it were four rolled-up pieces of paper. Why of course! If they were messenger pigeons, they must have had messengers. 

Mallan's sense of duty pushed him over to the corner and made him pick up the first piece of paper, because there might have been some important information on it. Senses of duty are damned annoying things, sometimes. 

Dear Rodden, 

Your mother's foot cream consists of the following ingredients; trollwart, giggledown, the leaf of the Stinkroot tree, and ground up bits of gravel or some sort of thing like that. Mix these together to form a paste... 

Thinking that this message probably wasn't of national importance, he put it away and picked up the second one. 

Vinny, my love. My passion for you burns as a bonfire to a match. I will follow you anywhere, do anything for you. I am yours, no matter what happens, I will always want to—

Mallan quickly dropped the paper and averted his eyes; some things shouldn't be read even in private. He hesitantly reached for the next-to-last paper and unrolled it. 

Meet me at the Cliff of Knives with the Sleeping Tablets of the Ancient Sleepless Ones. The password is 'beware the halfwit weasels.' The Night Shadows will be glad with your work. 

~Marthus

Mallan frowned. And some things wouldn't make sense no matter how many times you read them. There was one more; he picked it up and unrolled it, sighing. 

Dear Chancellor Therein of the Academy for Aspiring Great Heroes, 

The Kingdom of Archipelago is under attack by that great oversea superpower, the Empire of Biast. Diplomacy cannot save us; I've tried giving them tribute but they don't want any Heroes or Villains. Too bad for them. 

In this crisis I need your help. Your forces, combined with my Great Army, will drive the invader back from our shores. Please send your greatest heroes to aid me. Oh, strike that, send all of your heroes to help me. We have sheltered your university since the beginning; now, will you succor us?

Of course you will, you’re heroes. Good luck, then!

Emery the Fiftieth, King of Archipelago, Duke of the Green Reef, and Lord of That Little Island with a Tree in the Middle. Dictated to his Chief Recorder, Holm Stirling.

                Post scriptum; I have sent two of these notes by carrier pigeon, to make sure that at least one reaches you. It sufficeth to say that our teatime on Wednesday will be put off until further notice.

Mallan set the note down. To say that his eyes were ‘alight’ would not be description enough, nor saying that they were ‘aglow.’ ‘Afire,’ even, wouldn’t be quite bright enough to describe how his eyes were. ‘Ablaze’ comes very close, but still doesn’t quite touch it.

                His eyes were supernovas of excitement. A real battle against Evil! A real chance to Smite the Evildoer! And, if he was lucky, he could even save the kingdom.

On his first day out of the Academy, too. What a lucky fellow he was.

Mallan the Soon-To-Be-Smiter-Of-Evil skipped off down the path, humming a merry tune to himself, his eyes like headlights in the falling dusk.

#

The Chancellor of the Academy for Aspiring Great Heroes set down the note. The pigeon sat on the windowsill, watching him with eyes full of dumb expectance.

The Chancellor extended his hand to the bird and she stepped onto it, being completely unafraid of humans. The Chancellor strode to his desk, opened a drawer and took out a knife.

The pigeon didn’t even have time to squawk as the Chancellor’s knife plunged into her heart. As the blood poured down his hand the Chancellor tossed the carcass out the window. Then he washed his hands in a basin of water and poured that, also, out the window.

Champion Therein, Chancellor of AAGH, had been born to be a hero. All the marks pointed toward his being a heroic man of might and strength who would overthrow somebody or other. His conniving uncle had married his mother and sent the baby in a basket down the river in the typical stupid villain’s way. A poor fisherman had found it and brought the boy up until he was ten, when a wise enchanter had come to teach the boy by turning him into animals and such.

Then he had defeated the uncle and married the princess; but something had happened to his Happily Ever After. It got realistic.

Champion—who nobody called ‘Champion’ anymore, just ‘the Chancellor’—had become realistic.

He threw away his last bit of his Happily Ever After as he tossed the slip of paper into his hearth-fire.



© 2009 Scott Free


Author's Note

Scott Free
Same questions. :D

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Added on September 12, 2009


Author

Scott Free
Scott Free

Caught a wave--am currently sitting on top of the world, CA



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