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The Hero Of A Thousand Wars

by StarFields


Just the other day, in a place not far from here, there was a city which had decided to celebrate their heroes, special soldiers who were called in when there was a disaster or an accident.

These special soldiers were very brave. They would go where others would run away, into burning buildings and very dangerous places, to assist their fellow citizens.

Not long ago in this particular kingdom, there had been a big disaster where a huge palace had been destroyed and many had died and perished.

Quite a number of the special soldiers had come from this one city in which our tale occurs; here, the city managers invited them all to this big party and to stay at their most glamorous inn, give them lots of food and speeches for the gratitude and admiration of the people in the city were great.

Preparations went underway. Garlands were hung in the streets, "Welcome Home Hero!" signs put up all along the main road, the children and the adults all were given a day off and flags to wave and flowers to strew into the hero's path.

So there was the grand parade, and all the heroes arrived at the inn - but then disaster struck again.

There was no water in the inn at all and not a place for the heroes to wash up from their long journeys and the long days. Being heroes, they didn't grumble or complain, but all the organisers were rushing around most upset with their heads burning like torches for the embarrassment of it all, and because they felt they'd let their heroes down.

Specialists were brought in but they shook their heads sadly and proclaimed that it would take at least a day to fix this so that water would be available in the inn again.

One young counsellor had an idea. He suggested that people from the city should adopt a hero and invite him to their homes, let them use their bathrooms and assist them right now. Then the heroes could go on to the party, which could be moved to another building soon enough, and things would be well after all.

This was announced to people of the city and to the heroes, and a big cheer went up from both parties. Two lines were formed, one for heroes and one for citizens with bathrooms; pairs of people would meet up, shake hands and then the citizen would take the hero back to their home.

One lady citizen was immensely excited to get to take a hero home. She was most admiring of their work and courage and stood in her queue so impatiently that she nearly seemed to be dancing. But when it came to it, and amongst all the excitement and upheaval of the day, the man she was to take home didn't look like a hero at all.

He was very dirty, he smelled bad and although he wasn't old, he didn't look quite right at all. In fact, he so didn't look like a hero that in a heartbeat the young woman understood that he might well be just a homeless man, of which there were many in the city, who had taken this chance, this opportunity, to get himself invited into somebody's home.

For one moment, the young woman didn't know what to do. But then something strange happened, and she never quite knew what it was, never managed to work this out, not even much later, but she stepped forward, held out her hand, shook the hand of the dirty man and spoke the words of "Welcome, hero." She led the way to her apartment which was right next to the centre of events, and the dirty man followed.

She spoke kindly and showed him to her bathroom. She also gave him some clothes that would fit him, as he was very thin and quite small, gave him her best towels and her finest soaps and then sat down outside the bathroom to wait for him.

The dirty man had never said a word. Whilst the water was heard to splash and rush, the young woman sat outside and wondered about herself, about this man, but she still felt very strange and so she just sat there.

Eventually, the door opened and the man stepped outside.

He wasn't dirty anymore. His long hair was combed and wet still from the water; his skin was clear, his eyes calm and beautiful and when he smiled at her, she knew that he was indeed, a hero of a thousand wars and that she was blessed to have been able to assist him on this day.

The young woman stood in awe and didn't know what to do, but the man went towards her, smiled at her and said in a calm and beautiful voice, "Thank you, Jenny." Then he walked past her and let himself out of the apartment.

For a moment longer, the young woman stood in shock and then, something broke and she rushed to the door.

"Wait!" she called out, "Wait!"

But when she looked down the corridor, it lay empty, and silent - there was no-one there, no-one there at all.


StarFields 2004


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