Often, heroes are people chosen by fate or destiny. What happens if heroes are actually chosen via an interview? That’s the premise of this short story I have written.
A Hero’s Interview
Dark clouds gathered over the imposing castle, pelting the world below in a torrential downpour. The occasional crack of lightning illuminated the sky. Howling winds drove the rain horizontally, forcing the citizens of the city to run for shelter.
A man named Lowell wasn’t best pleased about the state of the weather. Though he was wearing a hooded cloak, it was uncomfortable over the formal outfit he had worn for that day. With the wind blowing the cloak everywhere, the rain was drenching him through and through.
Of course, Lowell had expected that he would need to deal with those kinds of weather conditions if he successfully got the job he was travelling to the castle for. He believed having to cope with them earlier meant that he could demonstrate the experience in his upcoming interview.
Another flash of lightning silhouetted the castle, making it appear far more menacing than it needed to be. Regardless, Lowell pressed on through the storm.
‘Welcome to the castle,’ a guard in full armour greeted him as he approached the castle’s gate.
Believing it would be best to inquire as to where he needed to go for the interview, Lowell stopped for a moment. Before he could utter a single word, the guard spoke again.
‘Welcome to the castle,’ he repeated.
Lowell waited for a couple of moments, only to discover that the guard seemed capable of that single line of speech. Not having any time to waste, Lowell freely entered into the castle. Apparently welcoming visitors was far more important than security.
Never having been inside a castle before, Lowell ventured through endless corridors. He did try most doors, but the majority refused to budge. One door did open for him though, revealing what must have been a treasury.
The sheer amount of gold piled up inside was overwhelming. Despite the lack of any light sources, it seemed to shine. A couple of treasure chests sat tantalisingly on the floor, calling to him. With zero hesitation, Lowell opened the chests and claimed the contents inside. Disappointment filled him when he found a sword made entirely out of bronze and a leather cap. Regardless, he kept hold of them. The temptation of a treasure chest was always too much, though that greed did often result in Lowell getting into quite a bit of trouble.
Lowell returned to the castle corridors and searched for the place he was supposed to be. Guards were stationed at intervals, but none of them ever shifted from their positions. They were even friendly towards someone who was clearly out of place, willingly pointing him in the right direction. That’s all they would do, though. They didn’t even seem to care that Lowell was openly carrying a sword around with him.
Eventually, Lowell came upon a large room with a pair of oversized red chairs at the centre. Immediately seizing the opportunity, he sat down on one of the chairs. It was surprisingly comfortable, despite all the gaudy decorations. After slipping his newly acquired bronze sword and leather hat into the infinite depths of his pack, he stood up and looked around. It wasn’t just the chairs that were gaudily decorated; the entire room was filled with tacky designs. Quickly growing tired of the interior decoration, Lowell departed the room.
It took some time, but Lowell was eventually able to successfully find the room where a man in a military uniform greeted him. The storm had served as a blessing; it really limited the ability to tell time with a sun-dial, so the military man never realised that his interviewee was a bit late.
The interviewer looked down at a piece of parchment. ‘Ah, you must be Lowell, correct?’
Lowell nodded in response.
‘Right. I am Captain Grenville, and I shall be interviewing you today.’ Grenville extended his hand, and Lowell shook it. Afterwards, he instructed Lowell to sit down.
Lowell did as he was asked, removing his sodden cloak in the process. Though his formal clothes were somewhat damp, they were still fairly presentable.
‘Right, you’re here to apply for the role of saving the world, right?’
Lowell’s eyes widened; that wasn’t what he had heard about the potential role.
‘Well, that’s what the whole thing will become. It always starts as a simple quest to save a damsel in distress or recover some precious treasure, and then suddenly there’s dark forces everywhere, your best friend stabs you in the back and you are the only one who ever buys goods from the weapon shops.’
Lowell shifted nervously in the chair.
‘Still, you seem fairly able from what I can see. You’re the kind of person who clearly has potential. It will take many battles, but I reckon you will easily become one of the most powerful people on this planet. You’ll have to cope with endless trials, though. The fact that you’re still here is a good sign.’
At that point in time, Lowell wanted to be anywhere else but there.
‘You must be really eager to set off on this quest, judging by the way you’re fidgeting like that.’ Grenville leaned closer to Lowell. ‘Don’t think I don’t know what you did earlier in the castle. Being able to find the treasury like that…’
Lowell suddenly froze.
‘It’s great! That kind of curiosity is just what a hero needs! Having the urge to check every nook and cranny… no one will be able to hide from you, that’s for sure. However, we still need to test you in a couple of aspects.’ Grenville rose from his seat, and bid Lowell do the same.
Lowell reluctantly followed suit, seriously considering bolting at the first opportunity.
‘Follow me, young hero,’ Grenville said, walking over to a door opposite the entrance of the room. Lowell did so, his opportunity to make an escape rapidly fading.
For some reason, Lowell did not run. Grenville had took him to a dungeon, where many suspect monsters were chained up and behind bars. There were a few human prisoners as well, and none of them welcomed the sight of the captain.
‘Take a good look, lad. These are the evil sorts you shall be fighting later on in your quest. I know keeping them gathered together here is a bad idea, but the king decreed it for some bizarre reason. Anyway, we’ll now test your combat prowess.’
Lowell’s heart suddenly started beating faster. He had never actually fought anyone or anything before. Though he wanted out of the interview as quick as possible, dying wasn’t exactly the best escape plan.
‘Now, behold your fearsome foes!’ Grenville declared loudly, opening a jail cell. From the darkness emerged two silhouettes. When they jumped into the torchlight, Lowell had to do a double take.
Standing before him were two creatures that were not much more than blobs of green slime with eyes. Something about them seemed almost cute.
‘Don’t let their looks fool you. Given half a chance, they will slaughter you.’
Judging by the curious looks they were giving him, Lowell didn’t believe Grenville for a second. The “fearsome foes” couldn’t have been more than than ten inches tall. Regardless, he cautiously approached them and knelt down. The pair of slimes continued to stare at Lowell. He reached out towards one, which flinched.
‘Don’t you want a weapon?’ Grenville asked.
Lowell shook his head, and patted one of the slimes. He did the same to the second one, and they both immediately took to him. The pair of slimes leapt up onto his shoulders. Despite being made of slime, they weren’t sticky or left any stains.
‘Hold steady, lad, I’ll save you!’ Grenville cried, unsheathing his sword and raising it into the air.
Lowell signalled for the captain to stop.
‘Wait… you’ve allied yourself with those monsters?’ Grenville lowered his sword and stroked his chin for a couple of moments. ‘You might be more suited to this role than I thought…’
That was the last thing Lowell wanted to hear.
‘You pass this section. Being able to form unexpected alliances… well, that certainly was a surprise. As a gift, I’ll let you keep those slimes as pets.’
‘Yay!’ the first slime exclaimed
‘Hooray!’ the second cried triumphantly.
‘Bloody hell, they can speak… I never knew that,’ Grenville admitted.
‘That’s ‘cos you never asked!’
‘All right… I guess you have names?’
‘Aye! I’m Elsdon,’ the slime on Lowell’s left soldier said.
‘And I am Arlo,’ the slime on the right soldier introduced himself.
Grenville shook his head, and immediately returned to the interview.
‘Next is magic aptitude. Our resident… witch… will take over from here. I have to go and fetch her. I can trust you to stay here in this dungeon full of dangerous monsters, right?’
Before Lowell could answer, Grenville departed. Once he had gone, the prisoners seemed to settle down. Lowell almost made a dash for the exit, only to spy a treasure chest in one of the cells. He sighed, and immediately looked around the room for some way to get to the chest.
‘What are you doing, Lowell?’ Elsdon asked.
‘Can’t you see that chest? He’s clearly going after it,’ Arlo explained.
‘Oh… isn’t that a bad idea?’
‘Since when is treasure bad?’
Lowell nodded in agreement with Arlo’s sentiment. He would need to work quickly, since he had no idea how long it would take for that witch to arrive. Fortunately, he had a keen sense when it came to treasure hunting, so he was inside the cell within seconds. Lowell opened the chest, only to discover a couple of vials filled with a strange green liquid.
‘Those are potions,’ Elsdon explained. ‘Drink ’em when you’re injured, and you’ll recover a bit. Just don’t ask how that works.’
‘Well, it’s obviously magic,’ Arlo said.
Suddenly, two bolts of lightning flashed towards Lowell. He ducked at the last second.
‘What was that?’ Arlo cried, terrified.
‘Are you aware that you are being attacked by a pair of slimes?’ A female voice asked. She emerged from the end of the dungeon, and was quite a sight. She was dressed in robes of purest white, with long wavy blonde hair that extended to the small of her back. She was carrying a staff adorned with a magnificent jewel in her left hand.
‘Though I wonder why that captain locked you up… anyway…’
‘Actually…’ Elsdon started, but the newcomer interrupted him.
‘Oh, so monsters truly are capable of speech. Regardless, they need to be exterminated.’ The woman began muttering under her breath, but quickly stopped when Lowell slipped out of the cell. Now that he was closer, he was struck by the woman’s looks.
‘I get it!’ Arlo exclaimed. ‘You must be the magic user who joins the hero on his quest, and the eventual love interest!’
The woman immediately broke down in a fit of hysterics. Lowell, Elsdon and Arlo just watched awkwardly as her fit of laughter went on. Eventually, she was able to regain her composure.
‘My name is Essie,’ the woman said, wiping tears from her eyes. ‘I haven’t laughed like that in a while… anyway, I’m supposed to be checking your aptitude for magic. As for this whole “love interest” thing… ha ha ha! Oh, sorry… I’m already in a relationship, see?’
‘I didn’t think it was that funny,’ Elsdon muttered.
‘Do you want to fry, slime?’ Essie threatened.
‘I’m sorry!’ Elsdon attempted to bow in apology, but that merely resulted in him slipping off Lowell’s shoulder and landing on the ground with a dull thud. After all, it was anatomically impossible for him to bow. It was in that moment that both Lowell and Essie discovered that slimes could blush. He quickly returned to Lowell’s shoulder.
‘Anyway, I’m destined to rule this kingdom.’
‘So you must be the king’s daughter,’ Arlo guessed.
‘Wrong! Try again.’
‘In a relationship with the prince?’ Elsdon asked timidly.
‘There is no prince in this kingdom, but your guess is closer. What about you… er, Lowell, was it?’
Lowell merely shrugged.
‘There is a princess… I think you can figure out the rest, right?’
‘There’s no prince, but Elsdon’s guess was close…,’ Arlo thought aloud. ‘You are in a relationship.. with… the princess?’
‘That’s correct,’ Essie admitted rather fiercely.
‘Oh,’ was all that both Elsdon and Arlo had to say on the subject. Lowell wasn’t bothered by it in the slightest, either.
‘People usually kick up a fuss, you know? The king certainly took a long time to come round- ahem! Anyway, let’s see how you handle the use of magic. Follow me.’ Essie turned on her heel, and exited the dungeon. Lowell followed; the jewel on the staff was too tempting for him to pass up.
They arrived in a large courtyard. Several archery targets had been positioned at the far end, and all of them bore burn marks. The heavy rain from earlier had ceased, which came as a relief.
‘Right, the next part is simple. Watch me, and then copy,’ Essie said. She muttered under her breath for a few seconds and then aimed her staff at one of the targets. It was blown to pieces, leaving behind a large smoking crater.
‘Whoa…’ Arlo gasped.
‘Just do the same. Go on, do it,’ Essie said.
Lowell was pushed into position. He just stood there awkwardly for a few moments before his slime companions caught on.
‘Lowell, just aim your palm towards a target,’ Elsdon whispered in his ear.
Lowell did as requested, and heard both slimes muttering something unintelligible. Suddenly, a small flame appeared in front of his hand. It was no bigger than a flame from a match, and it floated lazily towards the target.
‘I guess it’s better than nothing…’ Essie said. She did not mask
the disappointment in her voice. Everyone just watched silently as the flame drew steadily closer to the target.
Suddenly, the rain started up again, instantly extinguishing the flame. Lowell felt a little relief that he had utterly failed the test.
‘Well, that doesn’t matter,’ Essie said. Despite the torrential downpour, she was managing to remain perfectly dry. ‘Some people have complete mastery over magic, like me. Some have to resort to barbaric methods of combat with swords and the like, such as you.’
‘Sorry,’ Elsdon and Arlo whispered to Lowell. Lowell shrugged in response.
‘Well, I have both good and bad news for you, Lowell. The bad news is that you have failed this interview.’
Lowell had to restrain himself from celebrating.
‘The good news is that you were the only one who answered the summons, so you’ll be trusted with the task anyway.’
Lowell’s face immediately fell.
‘Continuing the good news, you shall have a couple of companions. Two rather important companions. First is Dayna… though your might know her better as Princess Dayna Eglantine Solis. She’s actually a bloody brilliant warrior, and not bad looking, either. I shall take you to meet her now.’
The princess had been waiting for Essie. She was dressed surprisingly conservatively; a simple outfit of a brown tunic and breeches. She too had long hair, though hers was brown in colour. She carried a sword with her, and politely greeted Essie when she arrived. She barely looked at Lowell and his slime companions.
‘Dayna, this is the guy who will be embarking on that big important quest with us.’
‘Really? Does he know he’s got a slime on either shoulder?’
‘Whoa, us? Are you coming as well, Essie?’ Arlo asked.
‘Surely you could have figured that out? Anyway, we should set out as soon as possible.’
‘Just so you know, I would be perfectly content to sit at home and play princess,’ Dayna admitted. ‘However, these types of adventures always result in lots of treasure, and there’s no way I can let that opportunity pass me by.’
‘And I’m only going because she is,’ Essie added. ‘It’s your job to deal with all the big evil monsters who try to stop us, Lowell. So, is that all right?’
‘I think you had him at “treasure”,’ Elsdon said.
Lowell nodded. Sometimes, one had to make sacrifices in order to obtain riches. The princess would be an obstacle, though…
‘Right, this quest to save someone or retrieve that treasure or whatever… let’s go!’ Dayna declared loudly.
And thus, the group destined to save the land was formed. Lowell and his two slime companions, Elsdon and Arlo, along with Princess Dayna Eglantine Solis and her partner Essie. They departed the castle, shortly after raiding it for every last treasure chest they could find.