That is all which remains…
I pulled myself from the cushioned bed. From a window, I stared out at
the city of Britain.
Look at them all, I thought. See how they scamper about like ants. All so pleased with themselves. Hah! What right hath they to be happy?
"Well, well, well, master," The Black Sword chimed at the other end of the room. "A pleasant morning to thee! Didst thou sleep well?"
"I asked not for thou to speak, Daemon." I replied.
"Ah, thou'rt in a delightful mood, master! What shalt thou do today? Mayhaps take me and slaughter several of my race in the name of Virtue?"
Without another word, I picked up the sword and flung it into a chest. Searching through the drawers, I found a key and locked the chest.
"Thou canst not leave me here, master!" Arcadion moaned. "Free me! I served thou well on the Isle of Fire!"
"I shalt not leave Britain, Daemon. I am cursed with the Black Sword as much as thou art."
"Then free me!"
"Never, Arcadion. That sword shalt remain thy prison."
After dressing, I trudged wearily through the halls of Castle Britannia.
"Good day, Avatar!" A guard called to me at the drawbridge.
Ignoring him, I hurried across the moat into the city. As I stepped onto the cobbled streets, I saw my old friend Dupre approaching with two comley wenches. He was clearly drunk.
" 'Ey, Avatar!" The drunkard fool called to me. "Zhese two don't believe I'm th' real Dupre. Tell 'em who you are! No'ne else' friends with zhee Avatar…"
The first wench giggled. "Well, 'Avatar?' Is this your friend, Dupre?"
"I am no Avatar." I replied, turning away from them.
Dupre stared at me with bewilderment. " 'Ey! Tel'em who I am!"
The idiot tried to walked forward, but succeeded only in falling face-first into the cobbled street, where he instantly fell asleep.
The two wenches burst with laughter. "So who are you really, 'Avatar?' You look a bit like a noble."
"Nobody. I'm nobody at all."
I spent the afternoon drinking at the Blue Boar with Shamino. He and I
both had nothing to do in town but loiter. Soon, Dupre joined us, with
no memory of our encounter earlier today.
"Jolly good day to both of you!" Dupre yelled as he entered. "Where's Iolo? He hasn't left Britain already, has he?"
"Nay," Shamino replied, "He's helping Coop at their shop. Then he was going to stop by the conservatory."
"Bah! He's too old! 'Used to know how to have fun!"
"I'm afraid we're all getting old, Dupre." Shamino smiled.
"Not the Avatar! Still looks the same as the day we met!"
I remained silent throughout this exchange. The hours passed, and more patrons began to come in. As the shadows lengthened outside, the tavern became packed. Still we waited impatiently for Iolo.
"What's keeping the old bard?" Shamino muttered, looking at my pocketwatch.
People crowded about the doorway as two figures approached. A cheer sprang up as Iolo entered. Yet a troubled expression hung about him.
"Iolo!" Dupre cried. "We saved thee a seat, old man!"
"Old? Not until Britannia sinks beneath great Neptune will I be called old!"
"A song!" Someone called. Several others voiced the same request.
At first Iolo declined. It had been a while since the old bard displayed his talents at music. Finally he relented, bringing out his worn lute.
"Coop, you know the lyrics to Stones, don't you?"
The bard's young apprentice smiled. "Of course! We don't get many requests for that when I play with 'The Avatars,' but there's no bard alive that doesn't know the greatest song of all Britannia!"
Iolo smiled appreciatively. Fingering the lute as aged as himself, the bard began to play.
Coop only sang the first few lines before he stopped. Not one of us in the tavern noticed. While the old bard clearly played Stones, it was not a song any of us had heard before. It was a song of grief, of anguish, of hopelessness and despair. It was a song of mourning, a song which offer not the least solace.
As the bard strung the last notes, tears swelled up in his eyes. Not one of us spoke as he silently but the lute away.
"Dupre," My old friend spoke up, "Hast thou a hankerchief?"
Having broken the silence, normalacy slowly returned to the tavern. Yet most of the conversations clearly circled about Iolo.
"Boss?" Coop went up to Iolo.
"It's all right, I'll survive." The bard dabbed away the tears on his eyes. "Go mind the shop."
"We'll be closin' up early tonight." Lucy called from the storeroom.
"Oh? Why's that?" Iolo remarked.
"Didn' ya here? T'night Raymundo's play premiers. 'Alf of Britain 'ill be there."
"Oh shit!" Shamino stood up. "I have to meet Amber there before the play!"
Dupre chuckled. "I didn't know twas going to run so long you couldn't wait 'til afterwards."
"No, no, I mean they want me to act in it."
The drunken paladin burst out laughing. Iolo smiled. "As Shamino, I'll wager."
"No!" The ranger chuckled. "Lord British!"
Nearly the entire bar errupted in laughter. Even grim Iolo chuckled. "Too old to play Shamino, eh?"
"Why I'll get you for that someday!"
Still laughing, Shamino departed. As the hour passed and the sky grew darked, the bar began to clear out. Soon, Dupre, Iolo,and I were the only one's who remained.
"Closin' up now." Lucy remarked.
"Here." I pulled a pouch from my belt and threw it to her. I hadn't counted it, but knew it contained at least several hundred gold. "Just let us stay here all night."
"Well, alright, but only 'cause you're the Avatar. I'll leave out Some bottles for you."
"(Hic), yesh, a good idear, Avatar…" Dupre muttered. Within moments, the knight was curled up asleep under the table, snoring loudly. Both Lucy and Jeanette had left.
"Iolo, tell me, what ails thee, old friend?" I asked the bard.
"I wast just about to ask thou the same thing, (AV)."
I smiled. "I know what we both suffer."
"Aye." The bard replied. "Loss."
"Look about you, Iolo! See these ungrateful fools of Britannia! I sacrificed all that I had for them, and for what? None care. None even can acknoweledge to themselves that I saved all their miserable lives!"
"No! Don't talk that way, (AV). Don't let Hatred engulf you. How could they understand? They are mortals, who live human lives. But we who journeyed through the Stygian Abyss are more. We age slower than they, and are hailed as great heros. Try as we might to live normal lives, always shall we fail."
"Why us, Iolo? A homeless bard, a fallen monarch, a drunken warlord, a fanatical priest, a simple tinker, a defeated general, an apprentice mage, a survivor of a once-great town, and I, a world traveler, plucked to this world so that I couldst save it three times."
"None of us deserved our fates. Despite public adulation, we are more alone than ever before. While Dupre drowns his sorrows in drink, others hath turned to thine other companions, their only friends left. Now I am without dear Gwenno, and I am more alone than the days before Mondain when I traveled the continents, surviving as a pickpocket."
"And I am without Earth, a world where I couldst escape my responsibilities towards Britannia. Why must we go on?"
"For virtue, (AV). We must make sacrifices. Even though they art not recognized, we hath saved an entire world. We must be grateful for what we have."
"Why canst they not understand us, Iolo? Why canst we not tell them what it is like, the sorrow, the loss?"
"Do what thou wilt, (AV). Say what thou must. But it will be for thyself, not thine audience."
We sat in silence for a moment. Then I realized whatI must do. I stood up swiftly and gave Dupre a light kick.
"Get up, you drunken idiot! We hath work to do!"
Iolo helped the drunkard to his feet. "We hadst best come, old friend."
My two companions followed me out of the Blue Boar. I headed north towards
"Sho," Dupre muttered. "Vosh going on? Th' Guardian attacking again?"
Ignoring him, I entered Castle Britannia and proceeded to the armoury, where I equiped myself with a full suit of plate armour (excluding the helm), a chain coif, and a two-handed sword. Over the breastplate I draped a red sircoat with a golden ankh upon it.
Without another word, I head out of the castle once more, this time towards the Royal Theatre.
The play was almost over. Shamino stood on the stage, wearing a fake beard
and garbed in Lord British's regallia. Nine figures (myself and my companions)
knelt before him. Playing the Avatar was a young man with short blond hair
and a clean-shaven face.
"And so…" Shamino droned wearily, "I see that thou hast acted with Truth, Love, Courage, and become the embodiment of the Eight Virtues I hath set forth. I dub thee the Avatar of Virtue, great hero! May thy travels be rich and prosperous!"
"My lord," The "Avatar" spoke in a leaden voice, "I find no greater honor than to serve thee, my liege, and thy glorious nation of Britannia."
As the actors rose and bowed, the hall was filled with applause. I walked forward towards the stage. A hush came over the crowd. I steped onto the stage to adress the gathering.
"Good citizens of Britannia, I am honored for thou to so personify myself and my deeds in thy tales. I am further honored by the respect thou showeth towards me.
"However, the life of an Avatar is not one without vices. I suffer as much as any of thou. I am truly alone in thy land, for all are either above or below me. None can truly be my companions here.
"Trapped from my homeland, I am left with but a sense of loss. I hath nothing left but the virtues, upon which I become dependant. The Quest of the Avatar is never completed, forever shall I continue to strive to perfect myself. Should ever I depart from the path of Virtue, I may never find it again.
"For that reason I hath only responsibilities: to Virtue, to Britannia, and to thine people. I shalt continue to live and follow all of these, but I cannot take away the pain and loss I feel.
"I am alone! Do you understand? I am not a hero or a demigod! I am one of thou, twisted and turned to become a so- called paragon of Vritue! Don't you understand?"
My speech ended, all that was left was silence. The actors slowly departed the stage. One by one, the massive audience rose and left. All who remained were I and my three companions.
Dupre lurched drunkenly at the entrance. Yet even through his intoxication, my speech had reached him. He stared at me, not with surprise or any other emotion I expected. But with anguish, despair, letting himself see past his bottles of ale and realize that he is alone, like all of us.
Shamino stood on the stage with me, still garbed as Lord British. Yet shame now crossed his face, humiliation at the ignorance he had allowed to engulf himself. Once a king of the lands, now a poor ranger. Though loved by the people, he had lost his kingdom, his love, and his land.
Iolo alone remained untouched by my speech. Stroking his beard, he spoke up. "Thou said what thou didst hath to, (AV)."
"Thou wert right, Iolo. They did not understand. What purpose was there for it?"
"Thyself, (AV). Before we canst overcome our despair, we must confront it."
"But we shalt never overcome this, Iolo, shall we?"
"No, my friend, we never shall. I hath tried for centuries, with the aid of Gwenno. I know the loss that we all hide from ourselves, yet never shall we destroy it."
"Never, my friend."
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