A Heavy Burden
‘Hey Ems’ beamed Sam sitting down on the bed next to Emma.
‘How’s my little hero doing?’
‘I was only in there for a few hours?’ asked Emma confused.
She had been in Aeolgoyryn for at least a whole day, she had even stayed the night and shared a bed with Eirwen. If she had been gone such a long time, how come it was still only about five o’clock in modern-day Dorset?
‘How long did you spend in the book?’ asked Sam excitedly.
‘You fought any dragons yet?’
Sam seemed to be bursting with endless questions and was bouncing like an excitable puppy.
Emma remembered that once it had been Sam going on all these adventures, she probably missed them.
‘I think I was in the book for about a day and a night,’ said Emma laughing at Sam’s constant stream of questions.
‘I haven’t fought any dragons yet, but we’re going to. I think that’s coming at the end of the story.’
‘We ran into the Black Knights today,’ said Emma, ‘they were really scary.’
‘They sound terrifying,’ said Sam her eyes wide.
‘Who are the Black Knights?’
‘They’re the servants of King Gryffyn, they kill any Magic Wielders. If they can't find any they hunt peasants for fun when they’re bored.’
‘They didn’t hurt you did they?’ asked Sam frantically trying to search for any obvious signs of injury.
‘I’m fine Mum,’ sighed Emma shaking her head,’ ‘we hid in the trees.’
Sam took a deep breath and calmed down.
‘They’re really horrible though, the things they were saying, Eirwen was furious!’
‘I don’t blame her,’ chuckled Sam, ‘they sound like a bunch of gits!’
‘What you going to do about them?’
‘We’re going to find the hideout of the last Wizards and Sorceresses,’ said Emma bouncing on the bed.’
‘Then we’re going to take on the dragons and the Black Knights and get rid of the evil king.’
‘That sounds so cool,’ said Sam, ‘I miss dragons.’
‘You miss dragons?’ exclaimed Emma, ‘but they’re dangerous, aren’t they?’
‘I miss fighting them,’ said Sam, ‘one time, I killed this dragon that was the size of a cathedral, the dragon then fell from the sky and crushed the castle of the evil king, and we defeated his army in a fell swoop.’
Sam was enjoying listening to Emma’s adventure, as much as Emma was to tell it. She hadn’t talked about any of this for years, the only person Sam had been able to talk to about any of this before now was her own Mum.
‘Cool!’ breathed Emma.
‘It was pretty cool,’ blushed Sam.
‘Did you learn anything new today?’ asked Sam.
‘I learnt how to ride a horse,’ said Emma, ‘I’ve got my own pony.’
‘It’s a Shetland pony, and I got to name her, she’s called Acorn.’
‘That’s beautiful,’ said Sam.
‘It’s clear I’m going to have to teach you how to use a bow and arrow.’
‘But I can use magic in this book,’ said Emma, ‘I don’t need it yet.’
‘You won’t have magic in every book,’ explained Sam, ’you’ll need to be able to defend yourself, you never what you’re going to face.
‘Constant Vigilance! As Mad-Eye Moody says,’ laughed Emma.
‘Exactly,’ chuckled Sam.
Sam checked her watch and saw that it was already a quarter to six.
‘Goodness,’ said Sam frantically, ‘Meghan’s going to be home in fifteen minutes and you’re dressed like that!’
‘What are you talking about?’ asked Emma.
That’s when Emma realised that she was still wearing the dark red velvet dress, and even still had a sword attached to her belt.
Sam ran downstairs to start on dinner, and Emma quickly got changed into jeans and t-shirt, before putting her dress carefully right at the back of the wardrobe with the belt and dagger.
‘Hi, gang!’ called Meghan as Emma just finished getting changed.
‘Mummy!’ exclaimed Emma rushing down the stairs for a hug.
‘Hi there Cariad,’ laughed Meghan hugging Emma, ‘did you two get up to anything exciting today?’
‘No,’ shrugged Emma, ‘just hung out in my room.’
It wasn’t exactly a lie, a white lie if anything. Whenever she went into the book, she never actually left her bedroom. Sam had already told her, that Emma couldn’t talk about her adventures to Meghan, as either Meghan wouldn’t believe her, or think she was mad.
That night after dinner, Sam got to do something she had been looking forward to for a long time. Lord of The Rings bedtime story.
Emma took a quick bath and then snuggled down under her duvet next to Sam.
Sam was waiting somewhat impatiently with The Hobbit ready to begin. The first thing Sam had thought about when Meghan had brought up adopting just over a year ago, was telling Lord of the Rings bedtime stories.
Even if they had adopted a surly fifteen-year-old boy, that was twice the size of Sam, Sam would probably have tried to read them, Tolkien.
‘Mum,’ asked Emma before Sam opened the book.
‘Mm-hmm?’ said Sam looking up at Emma.
‘It’s nothing,’ muttered Emma pulling at a loose lock of her hair and curling it around her finger.
‘It’s not nothing Ems,’ said Sam gently, ‘you’re worried about something.’
‘How do you know?’ asked Emma perplexed her mouth in a wide O of amazement.
‘Because I used to do the same thing,’ chuckled Sam, ‘I used to play with my hair when I was worried or upset. I used to pull at the end of my plaits.’
Emma blushed slightly and sighed.
‘Mum,’ whispered Emma in case Meghan could hear them from the bathroom next door.
‘What if the prophecy’s wrong,’ she muttered, ‘what if I’m not the hero they’ve been waiting for?’
‘What if everything goes wrong!’
‘Sweetheart,’ said Sam soothingly, ‘good always wins. It’s what happens in stories. The hero or the princess always wins.’
‘Then why do they need me?’ asked Emma.
‘You’re just there to help,’ said Sam.
‘Being the Chosen Hero is a heavy burden to wear,’ said Sam, ‘I know it is, I’ve been there.’
‘But it’ll be alright,’ said Sam.
‘What if I die?’ mouthed Emma.
‘You won’t die,’ said Sam firmly, ‘the book doesn’t work like that.’
‘How do you know?’ asked Emma trying not to cry.
‘When I was about eleven, I got stabbed with a sword by an evil knight. It should have killed me, but it didn’t affect me any more than a small papercut.’
‘So being burnt by dragon fire,’ muttered Emma, ‘would be more like a mild sunburn?’
‘You got it,’ said Sam.
'You can still get hurt in the book though,' she explained, 'which is why I was checking you for injuries earlier when you brought up the Black Knights, but never anything fatal.'
‘So why do I need to learn to defend myself?’ said Emma, ‘bow and arrow and all that.’
‘To help your friends,’ said Sam stroking Emma’s hair and tucking a loose strand behind Emma’s ear, ‘and to strengthen the chances of good winning.’
‘Thanks, Mum,’ said Emma giving Sam a huge hug.
‘That’s ok Ems,’ said Sam, ‘everything will be alright.’
‘Now then,’ said Sam once they had finally stopped hugging, ‘Tolkien?’
‘Yes please,’ giggled Emma getting more comfortable under her warm duvet and quilt.
‘Then I’ll begin,’ said Sam opening the book.
‘In a hole, in the ground, there lived a Hobbit.’