- Episode 20 -
"You did well boy, now leave the ground be and help me move your sister into the house." Camden looked up from the cool dirt that felt so good upon his weary back to regard Mal. How was this old man not exhausted like him, he couldn't understand it. "Oh, alright," Camden complained with a groan. "Can't we just wake her up though? I don't see why we have to pack her or anything. We did do all the fighting, she could at least take her own self inside."
When Mal turned to look upon Camden his eyes flashed with a fiery forge of fury, his voice held the edge of restrained thunder. "Your sister just did what nobody else has done in countless ages - she just channeled the raw magical energies of nature itself. She read from a book nobody else ever could to bend the very wind to her service. I could have bested those two with cold steel but she did so with mere words. And without her they might have managed to kill or take you from her before I could stop them. You don't get it boy, what we face isn't a pair of thugs, we face something far worse and they want everything ever locked away in the Vault of Echoes. Those petty trinkets you have are nothing compared to what rests there, and your sister not only has the key but just proved to them that she now is the key. She can tap into the ancient secrets of the book, they will come for her. Our only hope is to get her rested and protect her until we can reach the Vault to ensure it is secure. Then we can deal with what happens next. But until then we have to keep her safe."
It took Camden a few breaths to realize Mal had stopped speaking. He was ashamed of himself, it was one thing to give her a hard time as his sister just goofing around but this was serious. Camden hadn't realized just how dire things were or how lucky he had just been. But one looming question still nagged him in the back of his mind. It centered on everything that had just happened and was promising to continue to happen to them. It was such a simple thing that demanded he ask it.
So he did. "Mal, who are you?" The old farmer turned to lift Trinity from the dirt and heaved her up supported by his shoulders. "Help me get her inside and we'll talk," he said with a sigh, his eyes closed. Mal had to fight to keep the images from flooding back to mind - that was a long time ago and he didn't want anyone still looking to him like he was that legendary figure. The stories were simply too much to live up to, even now.
Camden did just as he was asked though and helped get his sister inside to rest. Once done they sat down into chairs and Mal's face dropped the usual stern demeanor replacing it with a grave seriousness. "I was Sir Malthurion Abardeen, Knight of the Realm, Defender of the Peace, and Earl Marshal." It felt like forever, there was no sound after Mal recited some of his old titles, instead the two just sat in silence while it sank in.
In time understanding lit within Camden's eyes but he felt it best not to say anything. Before, if he had managed to have met THE Malthurion Abardeen he would have exploded with exclamation and glee. But now, after seeing the look on the living legends face he couldn't bring himself to. Mal didn't even have to look to the Camden's young face to be prompted to continue.
"No doubt you have heard some of the stories, most were true but you have to understand - living under that burden is too much for any man. There comes a time that the deeds grow to shadow the man who did them. And when that happens you find yourself being revered like something from childhood tales. I couldn't live with all the expectations any more, the stories told in the streets grew and grew. Until one day I found everyone in the realm had come to believe that I alone could stand between them and invading armies. I am no one man army, I helped to lock up dangerous relics - never use them. I was simply a man who was blessed with a skill of blade and battle. I had only ever wanted to serve the realm as best I could, to protect it, but what it was growing to ask more and more of me was something I never could live up to. So instead of seeing myself become a disappointment to the kingdom I instead chose to relinquish my title and take up a quieter life. My only hope was that in time everyone might forget who I was and that maybe then I might live without hearing my deeds recited every time I passed by."
As he spoke, Camden thought Mal looked so much older, burdened by an unseen weight and tired. His eyes seemed harrowed with guilt as he looked up at Camden. "Haven't I done my duty, haven't I done enough to be left alone in peace?" The question reached down into Camden and he wished now Trinity was awake to answer it instead of him. It seemed like it required such a delicate response.
Camden, never was good at talking, he never could seem to find the right words when it mattered. But he wanted so desperately to try so he simply said what he could. "I may not know all the stories or what it is like to live up to them." He didn't know where he was going with this but once he started speaking his mouth just took off without him. "But I do know that as long as I can remember I have dreamed of going off on adventures to make a name for myself and seek out treasure and excitement. I know now that part of that was just the fantasy of a child, an idle hope that we could make our own way without needing anyone to take care of us. But the truth of it is that I wanted to help people, that is what a hero is deep down - just someone who needs to do what they can to help others. If it is by tending the wounded or repairing things a hero helps by doing what they can. You were a great warrior, even today you moved with a skill far beyond me and if not for you my sister might not have had the time to find her magic. Leave the stories to the storytellers, there are things that need to be done that are bigger than us now and if we have the ability to do something then we have an obligation. Don't we?"
There was a certain truth to the boys words that resonated within Mal, it made him feel foolish for ever having neglected his duty. A ghost of his old resolve sparked back to life casting aside his doubts once more and spurring him to action. Quickly he rose from his seat and set himself to bark out abrupt orders.
"Prepare a bag for you and your sister, and get some rest. We'll leave at dawn. I'll see to Percival and some supplies." And just like that Camden watched as the renowned Malthurion Abardeen seemed to forget all thoughts of living a quiet life as a farmer. He couldn't help but wonder just which stories might have been true though - surely, that one about single handily slaying a dragon wasn't one of them. Was it?