Hero’s Return Part Two
"Aye, ye come tae me for a story av ye? Well, this here is the best ol' sea dog to come to for it. Name's Salty McBride an I was a pirate on the Marie Elena. Lovely ship she was. But this here story anit bout me. Naw, tis about a Hero! Like the one of that myth. Now this hero wont anyfin special at first. Just travelling along some road trying tae get to some fancy ball somewhere. I dunno the specifics, didn't ask.” *glug* “Bar lady another rum! Anyway this hero had two maties with em. Some weird hooded man they met on the road who offered to help em along. Creepy guy him, in his white hood.” *shiver*. “But the other guy, some dude called Nightingale with gold eyes and black hair. Some sort of thief or something. They made a pretty good team did these. Aye all went to the ball together they did. Just so happened those demonic weirdos showed up. The Children”. *shudder* “Anyway, when these children attacked it was chaos! People dead all over the place. Poor Hero got emself all messed up pretty bad. I suppose we pirates aint so bad after all since the cap'n took em aboard."
The sun always rose at the worst time, no matter how early or late Mira awoke. Mentally damning whoever opened the curtains, she forced herself out of bed. It was not a very comfortable bed. The thin mattress was stuffed with straw, which proved not to be the most pleasant of things to have jabbing you in the back all night.
Mira picked up the pillows that she had thrown onto the floor the previous night and placed them back on the bed. Honestly, who sleeps with half a dozen pillows?
She supposed that she should be thankful for the hospitality these people had shown. Oh and of course the fact that being a herbalist granted you a fair amount of money- she couldn’t forget to be thankful for that.
She pulled on a dressing robe over her shirt and leggings and made her way down the long flight of stairs. She knew that she was early, but she wanted to get to the castle quickly.
“Morning,” said Nightingale shortly, taking a sip from his steaming mug of tea.
Mira gave a short nod to him and sat down opposite the man. “Is he up yet?”
She always referred to him as ‘he’ as he refused to let her know his name. Even Nightingale didn’t seem to know it, and they claimed to have been companions for quite a while.
Nightingale ( )iefly shook his head and then went back to his tea-sipping. He was friendly, no doubt about it, but he was very quiet in the mornings and sometimes grumpy.
Mira slumped back in her chair. ‘He’ wasn’t as happy as Nightingale- the white hooded man was sarcastic and quiet and smart. He didn’t speak much to Mira but at least he was a laugh.
Mrs Cook came bustling in from the pantry, stirring a bowl of ( )ead mixture in one hand and with the other holding a crying baby. She beamed at Mira from over her shoulder while putting the bowl down on the kitchen counter.
“Morning Mira,” she smiled completely ignoring Nightingale. “I’ve got your porridge ready.”
Mira didn’t particularly like porridge, but Mrs Cook insisted on her eating a healthy amount every day. Although her host had claimed it was just ready, the ( )eakfast was as cold as the stones beneath her feet.
Mira got up after finishing her porridge and said to Mrs Cook, “We’re leaving very soon. Thank You for letting us stay here.”
Mrs Cook’s smile faltered though she tried to stay her normal cheery self. “Oh.. But I’d already decided on what to have for dinner and-”
“I’m sorry but we really must go,” interrupted Mira who looked helplessly at Nightingale.
He shrugged and took another sip of tea. Mira scowled at him.
“Oh... alright then,” sighed Mrs Cook. “I’ll tell the groom to get your horses ready then shall I?”
“Yes thank you,” came a deep voice from behind them.
The white-cloaked man had woken. For the first time since they’d met, his hood was down, revealing dark long hair and blue-grey eyes.
He seemed to notice Mira looking oddly at him and quickly put his hood up over his head, though strands of ( )own hair still showed. Mira thought it was rather strange. He’d refused to show his face no matter how much Mira pestered him. She liked to see who she was speaking to. Nightingale didn’t seem bothered by it. She supposed he’d seen his face before. She wondered why he didn’t show it.
Mira had to share her horse with Nightingale, as she did not know how to ride. Nightingale had thought this was highly amusing.
“A lady of your heritage doesn’t know how to ride a horse? Do you not ride through the forests talking to animals and gushing over plants?”
Mira sniffed. “We certainly do not. Being one with nature has nothing to do with animals. I am a herbalist, I get no pleasure in being around filthy flea-infested creatures!”
Mira fidgeted in her saddle slightly. Even this horse made her nervous, though she knew she was in safe hands. Even ‘he’ laughed at this. “Are you afraid of your ride?” he asked with a chuckle. “It is quite safe.”
Mira smiled sarcastically at him. “Sure, when I fall and get trampled and you leave me here, I’ll be absolutely fine!” She leant over to lightly hit him on the shoulder, only to find that her saddle was loose.
She slipped side-ways and would’ve fallen if Nightingale hadn’t grasped her and pulled her back onto the horse.
“Aren’t you lucky you bumped into us?” ‘he’ grinned. “You’d be walking in circles.”
Mira chose to ignore his remark and sped the horse up a little. They soon forgot this little mishap and were chatting and telling stories.
“Are you a monk? Or are you a paladin…?” guessed Mira. She’d asked these sort of questions before, but ‘he’ would never answer properly. It annoyed her very much, and she was eager to guess correctly.
“Maybe. You should probably change now, it won’t be long till we reach the castle.”
They stopped at the outskirts of a forest, where Mira stepped off her horse and carried her luggage through the trees.
“Don’t you dare think about looking!” she snapped as she hurried towards the dense forest. “If you do I will beat you black and blue!”
“Fair enough,” Nightingale smirked. “If you need help just call…”
Mira sighed. “From you? Certainly not.”
A few minutes later she came back in a green velvet evening gown. It wasn’t the most splendid of outfits, but it would do and it was the best she had. Mira shoved her shirt, leggings and boots into her bag and they set off again.
She wondered why she was invited to the ball itself. Flower-arranging was a simple job and she doubted that page-boys and maids would be invited. Not long after they saw the turrets of a grand castle. It wasn’t fancy, but it wasn’t old either. It was a warm looking stone castle, like the ones that Mira saw in children’s books. It on a green overgrown cliff. Mira could tell that these people really cared about their garden. She liked them already.
Other people passed on horses, on foot, in carriages, even in wheelbarrows. People gave odd looks to her, perhaps because of her companions and their peculiar appearances.
The castle entrance was a large wooden door, guarded by two young men, one who probably wasn’t even on age yet.
“The lady of the castle’s son,” Nightingale said to Mira. “He is thirteen but people say he is extraordinary for a boy of his age.”
“They are with me,” said Mira said gesturing to the other two, although the guards didn’t seem to be particularly interested in them. The door swung open, revealing a long flight of stone stairs, which they climbed for a long length of time. At the top was a hallway, hung with tapestries, mostly red and gold or blue and green. At the end of a hallway a richly dressed woman- most defiantly the lady of the castle- was giving directions to people, probably to the ball. They followed the long queue of guests into an elaborate hall, lit by ghostly lanterns and decorated with more tapestries and banners. In the centre was a long table of food for the feast. Mira’s mouth watered looking at it.
Nightingale was already inspecting the chicken with a hungry expression on his face. She slapped his hand away. “That’s for after silly,” she said. “The dancing is about to begin. Go sit by the side.”
Mira made her way back to where ‘he’ was sitting. He looked slightly embarrassed and was watching couples dance together. He glanced up at Mira as she stood beside him. “Do you dance?” Mira asked him and he shrugged.
Mira felt slightly disappointed. She shook her head. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ she thought to herself. ‘There are plenty other men here.’
“Well, would you like to?”
“Do what?” he smiled nervously.
Mira rolled her eyes and smiled. “Dance!”
She was about to take his hand when she was whisked away by some other guy in an expensive looking suit. She saw his face fall and then hers do so too. She would have liked to dance with him…
She soon forgot ‘him’ as the man proved to be a good dancer. There was something weird about him though. When Mira looked at him, sometimes she didn’t see the same person- she saw something different. His eyes were filled with fire and were darker than anything she’d ever seen before. She couldn’t bear to look at him.
She was thankful when he bowed away from her, leaving her to another partner. He proved just as different as her previous partner- his teeth seemed slightly, well… pointy. His eyes were like coal. Maybe they were ( )others? Yes, that’d make sense. She was incredibly thankful when she found that she was now dancing with ‘him.’
“Thank goodness,” she ( )eathed. “You won’t believe what I saw…”
‘He’ looked very concerned. “Are you sure this place is safe…? Mira, I think we need to get out of here, these people-”
Mira had never seen him so frightened before, even when they’d been attacked by that hedgehog and that was scary. It was only when they heard a high-pitched scream from the other side of the hall that things started to make sense…
A wave of unease and worry swept through the crowd. Music stopped playing, people stopped dancing. Everybody was muttering, and murmuring, some more people yelling.
“What’s happening?” Mira gaped at ‘him.’ “Were, were those people demons?”
He didn’t answer, just drew his sword and stood in front of Mira. Mira groaned. “You don’t have to do this, I have one of those too you know…”
He turned and faced her. “What? Really?”
Mira frowned slightly as she took a small sword from her decorative belt. “..And I know how to use it! Just because I’m a woman, it doesn’t mean I can’t fight…”
He smiled. “I suppose not. I’ll still guard you with my life though.”
“Oh shut up,” grumbled Mira. “I am perfectly capable of-”
The crowd parted to reveal a young woman who looked no older than eighteen, who looked terrified (again, more terrified than ‘he’ had looked in the hedgehog attack). Mira supposed she was right to be terrified. Someone was holding a dagger to her throat, someone who appeared to have been her dance partner until the moment that they chose to strike.
There was a hushed silence, until a female voice shrieked “What are you waiting for? Do something! Help her!”
There were loud noises of agreement though nobody else was willing to draw their sword. Nobody else had a sword.
Mira looked at ‘him.’ ‘What do we do?’ she mouthed at him as people drew in on them, demons by the look of it.
Her heart began to thud. She’d been here only about an hour and she was already about to die. Soon some demon would slit her throat or carry her off or eat her and there was nothing she could do about it. Except try. If you don’t try you have no chance at all.
She stepped forward and awkwardly slashed at an elegant vampire-type woman from behind. She turned around and spat on the ground beside her then spoke in a language Mira didn’t understand. Looking inquiringly at the man beside her, ‘he’ said quietly “She said ‘filthy dirty-blooded animal.”
The woman was nor approaching them. She had no weapon but her teeth and nails were as sharp as knives, and her boots looked tough. As people finnaly started realizing what was happening, everything really got started. More people were attacked, more yelling, more screaming, more fighting… more deaths.
‘He’ only just blocked an attack intended for Mira, which no doubt would’ve been fatal if she had been wounded. “Thanks,” murmured Mira glancing at ‘him’ from the corners of her eyes while she defended herself from a demon. “I thought I was- oh…”
She glided to the ground, clutching her side. Mira’s face showed no pain or fright, only shock. She was as gentle as a swan- which was odd because Mira was normally clumsy- and lay crumped on the ground as elegantly as any royal.
All she heard before she fell into a deep sleep was the clatter of a sword drop to the ground. Strong arms held her as someone tried to force a bitter-tasting liquid down her throat.
She opened her eyes but saw nothing. Bright light flooded through them and ached her skull. Her bones ached like hell and she couldn’t move. She was lying on feathers, on clouds maybe. Was she in heaven. Was this light the gate? Were the angels waiting for her.
She held out her hand, a slight smile crossed her face. They would come soon, they’d come and collect her and she’d walk through the gates of paradise and the pain would stop.
A cold and sweaty hand grasped hers. “Wake up,” someone whispered. “Everything’s alright.”
An angel. The voice made her more calm. She knew that voice, it was hopeful and peaceful and cheered her when she was sad. Everything cleared.
The room was swaying a little and it made her feel a bit queasy. It was all wooden, the floor, the walls and the ceiling. She was lying in a soft bed and crowded around her were some familiar faces and some new ones.
‘He’ was there, clasping her hand as she tried to make sense of everything. Nightingale sat on the other side of the bed, searching through a bag for something before revealing a bottle. At the bottom of the bed were two people. A maid, maybe a different type of servant- maybe even a slave, and she looked no older than Mira. Beside her sat an old ragged man.
“You’re on a pirate ship,” said Nightingale. “The demons are gone and we’re safe.”
That was all Mira heard before she drifted back into a deep sleep.
I hope you enjoyed Hero’s Return Part Two. Technically it’s Part One, but seeing as it was the second excersise, this is what it’s called. Mira’s adventure will continue soon. PinkRobin owns Hero's Return and Hero's Journey and wrote the prologue. <( ) />