Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What You See

Setting: The Bright Castle
Plot: Plot
Narrative Device: Fauxshadow
Hero: Kid Hero
Villain: Trigger Happy
Character As Device: Perpetual Smiler
Characterization Device: I Want To Be A Real Man

Once upon a time, there was a village that waited for a hero. The prophecy was foretold by a smiling young girl passing through, and in a tongue without genders, though the common consensus was that the hero would be a boy, and that he would be born in a great castle. Given that, many villagers set about building a castle.

As you might guess from the fact that they built this place because they wanted the setting to fit a storybook, rather than any particular need for a fortress, they did not build a castle. A castle is something made of strong stone, and made to hold off the many enemies this village did not have. No one knew how to build a castle, or really why one would.

Rather, they built a palace.

Now, as one might also guess, there was a bit of trouble over who got to live in the castle. The villagers eventually agreed that the castle should house the bravest warrior and the fairest maiden. That was how the story went, after all. Many of them braced for a long argument over who was the fairest, who was the best warrior, etc. Failing that, the warrior would obviously be married. Or the maiden would be freshly married. No prima nocta, given the absence of close nobles, so marriages occasionally went a little while without consummation, if the couple happened to be busy enough.

Failing that, clearly, there would be some issue with the couple. They would hate each other, at least at first, if not for so long. Several romantics insisted the first child would dissolve any troubles; several parents saw the flaw in that. Children were lovely little darlings, of course, but being woken up in the middle of the night several nights in a row was not the sort of thing to build a relationship on. The romantics said the others had no vision, and that clearly the child would give the man the chance to show his sensitive side, which would have the woman swooning over him in gratitude, and then everything would be fine.

So both sides felt a little cheated when there was such swift consensus. Everyone immediately agreed who the fairest maiden was, and who the bravest warrior was. The only exceptions were the maiden and the warrior themselves, who wouldn't vote for themselves out of modesty, but no one else even really considered their choices.

The couple worried, of course. But, disappointing again, they met, and they fell in love, and they moved into the wonderful palace and lived happily ever after to raise a beautiful baby boy with an absurdly heroic build. Though he never brushed his hair, it was always that perfect, shining blond that only babies, angels, and a handful of blessed and rich nobles ever seem to manage. His teeth were perfect enough that they would have looked outright disturbing on anyone else, stuck out too much, if it weren't for the fact that the rest of him was perfect, too.

He reached the age, and because it was a story they expected, it was the age, 13. They waited for the monster.

Almost funny, really. They hadn't any idea of what a hero should be, but figured he looked right. Yet every villager had an idea of what the monster would be. No one needed to be told about what lurks beneath the bed, or beyond the mountain, or in the hearts of men. Priorities: Find the hero eventually; avoid the danger now.

And here is the first place our story disagrees.

The hero can have good works, but at the age, in his thirteenth year, he was supposed to have an obvious enemy. Dragon, ogre, evil king, anything really, just that someone was supposed to do something like lay siege to the "castle" or start kidnapping all the village's maidens.

There was the man who got drunk every night and took out a blade he was a little too careless with. The hero had figured out his power, and explained that it was of the utmost importance to stop giving this man alcohol. That might have been it. It might also have been when he made sure the man got help, did not simply ride out the withdrawal on his own.

There was a woman with a child. She could not afford to feed them both, and was wasting. He saw to it they got food, for people brought gifts to him often, and there was always extra to spread around. The child, upon growing up under the care of a sweet and determined mother, started something like an informal soup kitchen.

Might've been the cat in the tree. Might've been any number of things that only one or two people really knew he'd had a hand it, that changed the people because The chosen one had helped me with something so inconsequential, so I must be special. I must be destined for something great, so now I'll go out and find it.

The hero was having trouble feeling satisfied. As I said, the thirteenth year was supposed to bring a great, world-changing adventure. If not truly planet-changing, at least something that would change his world, change the village. He struck out to find it.

Long after, when his parents had died peacefully of old age and he had been traveling the world for the better part of his life any way you slice it, he sat in a busy market.

The smiling prophetess sat down beside him. "It took many good masons to make that palace."

He nodded, having recognized her, and having found the difference between a palace and a castle on his journeys. It was a compliment to his home, since the townsfolk had insisted on doing the building themselves. "They brought in many good teachers, I'm told."

The old woman nodded. "And created a magnificent one."

The hero blinked. The old woman smiled a little wider as the translation danced through his head.

He will change the world, and pass on the torch so that it keeps changing.

"...I thought I chose one. When I was dying."

"And they all, to a one, thought you chose them. People're funny that way." The woman, who suddenly seemed hardly older than he was, smiled right at him.

And they traveled, and taught, and smiled, and lived.

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