A World Without Heroes
by Patrick Harron
Tamerus lead the young acolyte through the vaults of the great library. The air was stale, dust heavy upon the assembled tomes. They seemed endless, written in many languages. Some of them were easily recognizable, others strange, foreign tongues. Others encoded in esoteric symbols, puzzling even her keen mind.
The wise old sage had brought her here for a reason, and with steady hand he held out a lantern, guiding them. They walked together in silence, past row after row of books. The sound of their footsteps was the only noise to break the silence, echoing through the depths of the vault. The light of the lantern flickered and she watched as shadows danced across the walls. The shadows enthralled her and for a moment she thought they took shape of creatures and beasts, monsters from legend, such as those within many of the old texts they walked past as they continued their way through the long dark of the vaults. Only their tracks in the dust gave any sign of their passage. This was a place seldom tread, even within the vast repository of knowledge. Just the thought of being here filled her with an excitement and curiosity she could scarcely contain.
“There exists within the depths of my library countless tomes. Words penned by ancient scribe bearing names long forgotten by most. They contain the wisdom of ages, thoughts and ideas which have over the many years evolved, taking on a life of their very own. I have read them all, each and every one. Every page committed to memory during the course of my long life.” Tamerus spoke, breaking the silence. He pulled a volume from the shelf with care, opening it with long, calloused fingers. The words were written in a fine, delicate hand. She recognized the script, the flowing calligraphy of the Althuwatha. Known in the common tongue as elves, they were said to be as eternal as the great sage himself. The tongue of her mother’s people, but one foreign to the young pupil. He held the book out before her. She reached out with trembling hands. It felt heavy, smelling of frankincense, cloves, and something otherworldly. A sweet pungent smell, that seemed familiar, yet unknown. The words though beautiful, held little meaning to her. “You have no doubt seen them,” her teacher continued. “Myriad tales of myth and legend. Stories of heroism and adventure, of hearts won and favors earned. Such tales form the foundation of our history. The backbone of every culture, shaping the very beliefs and ideals we live by today. In these stories monsters are slain, and nations saved from certain doom.” The acolyte nodded, handing the book to her elder. He placed it back onto the shelf with care. “Fate choose those destined for greatness. Through their deeds and hardships they became more than mortal. They became myth. Their actions elevating them, granting immortality in form of story and song. These sagas remain, forever etched in history. Many of them line these very shelves. The heroes, however, are gone, long since turned to bone and dust.”
Tamerus motioned them forward, leading her through a passageway into another section of the vault. He unlocked doors as they went. Making use of the large keyring that hung from his waist. They continued in silence until they came before another locked door. She noted the slightest smile on her teachers face and he procured the key to the door. There was a loud click, and the door unlocked. He pushed it open, revealing a small study or workshop. An empty workbench sat in the middle of the room. Beyond it, a small bookshelf in the corner, next to a desk, covered in papers. Candles lined the room, and she jumped as their flames sprang to life as if by their own volition.
She felt a comforting hand on her shoulder, and he motioned for her to sit at the desk. He began to rummage through the books on the shelf. “Once again a darkness spreads across the land. It waits, lurking just beneath the surface of conscious mind. Hiding in the cracks between waking thought and the fantasy of dream. It is insidious, growing greater in strength and influence with each passing day. When strong enough it will threaten to devour the world. The first signs are now upon us. Crops wither and livestock suffers. The blight grows and spreads, but mortals do not recognize the danger. Nor will they until it is too late. Threats both old and new will rise to swallow the world whole.” Tamerus set a pair of books down upon the desk before her. Opening the first she found it blank, numerous pages of empty parchment. The second was full of words and symbols she did not recognize. They were unusual, alien, yet seemed to hold some power. She felt a warm tingle in her fingers as she ran her hand across them. Tamerus said nothing, only placed a quill into her unsteady hand. “I have not asked you here to frighten you with tales of danger or prophecy. Nor to scare you from these hallowed halls of knowledge. The time for heroes must return, but will they heed the call? Will they rise up and protect the world? Or will they throw it away, plunging it forever into shadow. The choice is yours. Yes, yours young one.” She could only stare at him with wide eyes. Thoughts raced through her head as she tried to discern meaning from his words. “I tell these stories, not simply to educate, but to inspire. Heroes have not disappeared, they reside within each of us, a tiny voice, whispering to them deeds that will lead them to greatness. That voice resides within you as well, young one, you need only listen. The pen is in your hand. It is time to write your story…”