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Most Unlikely Hero

By Stephanie Ayers All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy

Short Story

The world was so quiet, the soft padding of the field mice echoed as they scampered through the grass. The whole world hung on a breath, waiting.

I’m supposed to play a role in saving the world, but I don’t know what that role is. No one will tell me, either. I’m told the fate of the whole world rests in my hands, but I don’t believe it. It’s impossible. Born to an innkeeper, I’m plain and average in every way; I have excelled at nothing. I lumber, and I’m clumsy, much to the delight of my friends. The fate of the world can’t rest in my hands. It’s just not possible.

Twenty years ago, a woman birthed a king with a gray star on his knee. According to prophecy, this infant’s arrival signaled the end of mankind. He would be unstoppable.

And now, the infant has grown.

He lived in riches; he lived in rags. This child-king experienced all facets of life, but still he ruled with absolute control. Still, he neglected the memories of hardship and continued to torment the unfortunate. As he grew, he lived life full and loud, with no concerns for those he crushed along the way. Grown to adulthood, he had the mark of a great king yet lived in fear. Fear of one small boy and a ruby amulet that could destroy him. Fear laced with greed for the power the ruby possessed– a power so tremendous, evil and greed consumed any who wore the necklace; a power so great the whole world worshiped him. This amulet possessed a power brutal enough to raise this king’s father from the dead and allow him to conquer the lands he once controlled, oppressing them into eternal darkness. That ruby held power so immeasurable only the purest heart could control it.

So the priests hid the amulet from the world.

Nobles and charlatans alike gave their lives in fruitless efforts to recover it. The king sent spies out to unearth it and secure it, and they returned empty handed. Then, the rumors started about a babe born with a pure heart who had the amulet. The priests took the babe and hid him, fueling the king’s anger.

Thus, the search began.

The king’s henchman hunted the countryside looking for this babe. They pillaged city after city and destroyed town after town. They investigated every errant whisper, every spoken word and came up empty.

The search went on until a year ago when the boy realized his destiny. With reluctance, he began his journey to the center of the world to destroy the amulet forever.

Today, the hardest part of his journey still lay ahead of him. He found his companions, a motley crew to aid him, and the time had come. Now, they must travel to the center, stand in the lowest point, and the boy must return the amulet to the earth. Luck followed them so far; the magic stones and potions given to him along the way made him invisible to the king’s spies. The party had to stop to rest somewhere, and it was my humble doorstep he chose. Upon entering my abode, the amulet glowed. He declared that I was to be an asset to his journey but offered no instructions.

Whatever I needed to do, I must find the answer soon. Hooves pounded the softened ground, and the earth lamented with tears of pain as the henchmen approached. This was the last stop before the great Barren wasteland that the boy must travel to complete his task. None has survived it, and he must. He MUST continue. If only he could fly!

Oh! I’ve got it!!

I must hurry. But, it has to be perfect. Quick and perfect.

I sit with the town’s sole artist behind me holding a needle dipped in ink. He stabs my skin, tracing tendrils of hot stings across my spine, my shoulders, my lower back. The pain lessens the more he works as my body adjusts to the sensations encompassing my back. This I must do.

Legend dictates the boy must have wings.

The artist stops. Saltwater rolls from his eyes as he admires his work. I catch flashes of yellows, pinks, and blues in the picture glass behind me. Colors rise from my back, and a short blast of pain suffocates me as my wings unfold. My gorgeous tattoo. These shimmering wings will fly the boy across the Barren wasteland and save the world.

These are the wings that will free my soul.



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