Cheers and applause roared from every side as Droth came forth through the city gates. A large mass of townsmen had met him some distance back and escorted him to the city, singing praises to his name. Many individuals had timidly approached him, emerging shyly from the crowd, taking his hand in theirs and thanking him over tears of joy.
“Hero,” they said.
“Thank you,” others choked out through their tears.
Hero, thought Droth, and he smiled. Never in all of his travels had something so innocent and simple been considered such a monumental act of heroism.
A long time ago Droth had left his small village and set out to see as many places as he could before he married. His future bride had given her blessing, as did the Council, so he set off without much of anything of which to speak. So much time had passed since then, that Droth’s hair would now reach down to his buttocks, had he not cut it regularly.
The time had been well invested, as he had learned many new skills, grown stronger and even acquired a good deal of wisdom. It all culminated in this, though. His great moment of glory with the people of Caruthia. He certainly felt that their reaction was disproportionate to his deed, but he also felt pride and excitement from their cheers and the glory of being a hero.
They marched him and paraded him through the streets of their walled city. On the steps of the council building they adorned him with the hero’s cape. They performed many unfamiliar rites, customs and tributes before finally leading him to their great hall of heroes.
The great hall of heroes was a large building, tall, beautifully carved from stone. There was a door in front large enough to fit a giant, and it took four strong men to slowly swing it open. Inside there was no light except some scattered torches along the walls and on some of the columns, unusual even for Caruthia. Someone Droth had seen before explained, in the best words he knew, that this place was a tribute to all of the heroes who had ever performed an act of heroism for the city of Caruthia. As per custom, Droth was to be honored here as well.
They entered the great hall of heroes and walked slowly down the long hallway, the sides of which were adorned with statues of great men, all wearing the same hero’s cape that now gracefully fluttered and waved behind Droth. Some of the statues sported weapons, some were in the attitude of worshiping or praying. They were all in such magnificent poses. What beautiful statues Droth thought. The workmanship was extraordinary. Even their eyes seemed to glitter with satisfaction at being honored as a hero.
“Every young boy in Caruthia dreams of one day being honored here,” his guide explained. “Unfortunately, opportunities for acts of heroism worthy of admittance to the great hall of heroes are not abundant. It may be a very long time before we have the great honor of remembering another hero here.”
“These are amazing statues,” remarked Droth. “When will I meet the craftsman?”
“In good time, my hero.”
He began telling brief accounts of the deeds that brought some of the heroes in to their great hall.
“This is Ermod, a simple farmer who was out in his fields when a horrible monster appeared in the distance, headed for our city. Ermod grabbed one of his farm tools and ran to meet the beast, which stood three times his height. A great fight ensued and finally Ermod returned victoriously to his home. News of his heroism spread quickly and we did not miss the opportunity to honor him here.” He pointed at Ermod’s statue. “There, can you see some of the scratches from his fight? Is it not amazing and wonderful to ponder and remember the acts of a hero? How can any society allow such acts to fade into history? The hero must be immortalized, remembered forever. That is why we built this great hall.”
Droth wondered how long it would take for such a statue to be built. He decided that a return to Caruthia to see his statue would be necessary.
Walking down the long hall seemed to take much longer than Droth had expected it would. They may have passed hundreds of heroes, perhaps thousands. It was difficult to tell how long they had been walking. At long last they came to a place where the hall still did not end, but there were no more statues to see. There was a pedestal. There was another pedestal. There were lots of pedestals with no heroes atop.
“Ah, here we are.”
Droth could hear the gentle murmurs of excitement humming through the crowd that had followed them inside.
“Now for the greatest moment of your life, Droth. We would like you to model for us up on that pedestal the most heroic pose of which you can think. Show us the pose by which you would like us to remember you forever.” Even the guide seemed excited.
Droth looked around at the beaming faces, then without the slightest hesitation leaped up on the pedestal and assumed a heroic pose.
“Yes, that will do nicely,” the guide said. “Just hold still a moment, this won’t take long.”
Suddenly there was a burst of light. That must be it, thought Droth. I can probably get down now. He… He, well… He began to panic. He tried to move his legs, but they were frozen. He tried to look down at his guide, but his head wouldn’t respond. He could move nothing, not even his eyes. Low in his field of vision he could see the tops of the people’s heads. They were all looking up at him, commenting on his pose, how great he was, how he would now be honored and remembered forever. What have they done to me? He asked himself. Do they know I can’t move? He tried to call out, but again he found himself unable.
Then, after a long moment of panic and horror, the people began to turn around and go home. He was called back to reality at that moment, and that is when his panic became complete as he realized how long he would be there and he realized just how long forever was going to seem from inside that dark, lonely hall.
The great hall of heroes.