by Georgia Shaw
This is the story of the brave hero of Kilga, Jason McLean, who risked his life for the sake of his village. His memoirs are as follows.
Jason had always been shy and timid. But today, he was especially nervous. Today was the 100th anniversary of the village founding, and he’d been asked to speak in front of a crowd. Jason reluctantly climbed out of bed and dressed in his best tunic. It was almost identical to his everyday tunic, but it would have to do. He went downstairs and helped himself to some goat’s milk from the cold room.
“Son,” said his mother, coming downstairs. Her face was pasty white.
“Are you alright, Mum?” Jason asked, standing up.
“Yes, yes,” she said with effort. “Congratulations, son. I’m very proud of –bleurgh!” Jason’s mum threw up in a nearby (thankfully empty) butter urn. Jason rushed to her side.
“Still fine?” he smirked.
“Don’t let this get in the way of your big day,” she replied, ignoring his remark. Jason scowled. “By the way honey, your new outfit is on the back of the door, along with your father’s sword. He’d want you to have it.”
Jason helped his mother to her room, then looked on the back of his door. Sure enough, a tunic and a cape hung there. The tunic was made of fine leather, and his new boots matched. His cape was a dark grey, not quite black. Black leggings complemented the attire. Then Jason took down his father’s sword. His father had died six months ago, back when they lived as travelling performers. He’d died defending Jason from a rabid dog. Jason’s mother, Nia, had decided to stop rambling and settle down in Kilga, her mother’s hometown. The sword Jason held had been his grandfather Urland’s, passed down to Joseph, Jason’s father. Now Jason had it. It was made of a shimmering steel, the same as Jason’s pegleg (his leg had been lost in the rabid dog attack) and was perfectly balanced. The leather grip fitted easily into Jason’s hand; the pommel stone glinted in the light. Jason buckled it onto his belt and stared at himself in the mirror. He was skinny and weedy, with arms as thin and frail as twigs. A mop of blond hair sat atop his head, lifeless as a pile of dead leaves. His gaunt face was as pale as the new moon. Jason adjusted his belt, sighed, and left the house.
As he stepped onto the street, something felt wrong.
“Where is everyone?” Jason asked aloud. He turned and saw the Wise Woman beckoning to him with her gnarled fingers.
Jason reluctantly went to her.
“You’re the only one not affected,” she said, ushering him into her house. “So only you can save the village. That is …” she cackled, “… if you are pure of heart.”
Jason had no idea what she was on about. “Affected? What do you mean?” he asked.
Sheba sighed. “Did you drink any water this morning?” she asked impatiently.
“No. Master Fredrick gifted me a vat of goat’s milk because I agreed to speak in front of the town. I drank that instead so it wouldn’t go off untouched.”
“Well, everyone who drank water was poisoned, because someone tainted the village water supply. Everyone but you and I drank water.” Sheba sighed in exasperation at it all. “Of course I would go, if I were young and fit, not old and frail. Hah!”
“And how can I save the village, exactly?” Jason asked.
“I need you to go and get the last ingredient for the remedy: the White Star of the Mountain.”
“That’s a myth,” Jason said scornfully.
Sheba frowned. “Young ones these days,” she tutted. “Questioning the far superior knowledge of their elders.”
Jason’s face flushed pink. “So it does exist.”
“Yes, yes,” Sheba replied. “You must go after it. You must leave Kilga!” She said it so dramatically that Jason inadvertently felt scared.
“I haven’t left the village in six months!” he protested weakly.
“What’s your excuse? Forgotten the ways of the woods, have we?”
“No,” Jason replied stoutly. “Just … scared.”
“Scared of what?” Sheba asked kindly.
“Failing everyone,” Jason replied in a barely audible voice.
“Really and truly.”
“Okay. That’s not what I was expecting. Well, that’s fine. Let’s get you going. Come.”
Jason followed the Wise Woman into her cellar. Lamps illuminated it. At least a score of doors led out of it, not counting the one they had just gone through.
“Choose if you are worthy,” cackled the Wise Woman.
Jason looked at the doors, then his eyes riveted on one. It was covered in scars and burn marks, having been gouged and burnt, as if to gain entrance. He walked towards it, as though in a trance. He reached for the handle and the door swung open of its own accord.
“Go, hero,” said the Wise Woman.
“I’m no hero,” Jason replied. “I’m afraid of everything! Anyway, how will I find the star?”“Someone will help you. And when you come back you will be a hero.”
Jason stopped listening and walked through the door.
He was immediately attacked by a bear. Somehow, he’d stepped into a forest, right in front of a hungry bear. So, Jason did the only rational thing, which was to listen to the voice in the trees telling him to play dead. So, he did. The bear snuffled around Jason for a minute, then lumbered off. That minute seemed the longest in Jason’s life. He shuddered and shook when it was over.
A girl dropped from a tree, lithe as a cat. On second looks, it was a young female elf.
“Thank you for saving me,” Jason said shakily.
The elf bowed. “My pleasure,” she said. “I’m Kayley.”
“Jason.” They shook hands.
“So, why are you out here?” Kayley asked.
“I’m after the White Star of the Mountain,” Jason explained.
“Everyone in my village, except me, was poisoned and, according to our Wise Woman, Sheba, it’s the only cure.”
“I’ll help you find it,” Kayley offered. “I had to find it two years ago.”
“Was your village poisoned too?”
“No. Just a quest. Elves love quests.” Kayley looked slightly downcast. Jason studied her expression.
“Were you kicked out of your village?” Jason asked.
Kayley jumped, then sighed. “Yeah.”
They were interrupted by a voice screaming: “Help!”
Jason and Kayley looked at each other then sped off in the direction the sound was coming from. They halted on the bank of a raging river. A young man was trapped in the current, clinging for dear life to a tree root that jutted out from the bank.
Kayley pulled a rope from her knapsack and gave one end to Jason.
“What do I do?” he asked.
“You can swim, right?”
“Yes. It’s just … I’m afraid of drowning,” Jason muttered.
Kayley sighed, exasperated, and leapt into the river. Jason wound the end of the rope around his hands as Kayley forged her way towards the boy. When she was out of her depth, she used a strong overarm stroke to reach him. She said something to the boy who was out of Jason’s reach, then they swam back to shore. When they reached the bank, Jason ran to help them up. The boy lay on his side, coughing up river water and silt.
Kayley slapped him on the back to help.
“Thank you,” rasped the boy. He held out a hand to both Kayley and Jason. “I’m Geoff.”
“Kayley. Nice to meet you.” They helped Geoff to his feet.
“Where are you off to on this merry day?” Geoff asked brightly.
“I need to find the White Star of the Mountain,” Jason replied.
Geoff looked surprised. “Really? As do I.”
“Are you on quest?” Kayley asked.
“Uh, yeah, something like that,” Geoff replied, then looked at Jason. “What are you doing?”
Jason glanced down at the kindling he’d absent-mindedly stacked. “Building a fire,” he replied.
“Good call,” Kayley nodded. She was shivering.
Jason continued to build the fire, mentally appreciating that his way of life had taught him to do so, years ago.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” Geoff asked.
Jason lit the fire before answering.
“I used to be part of a travelling company, until six months ago, when my mother and I settled at Kilga after my father was killed.”
“I remember hearing of a wild dog attack on a travelling company. Was that …?” Kayley left the question unasked, but Jason answered anyway.
“Yes. My father died defending me. It was also when I lost my leg.” Jason gestured at his pegleg.
“Was Joseph McLean your father?” Geoff asked. “I remember hearing he died in the attack.”
“Yes,” Jason replied.
Kayley looked at Jason, whose face was now downcast. “Perhaps we should keep going,” she suggested.
“Sure,” Jason said listlessly. He doused the fire with water, then covered the ashes in mud. He did so somewhat absent-mindedly. Kayley shot a meaningful glance at Geoff, then led the way to the mountain.
By late afternoon they had reached a cave. Kayley headed in without reservation. Jason and Geoff hung back.
“What are you waiting for?” Kayley asked. Jason reluctantly followed her in.
“How do we find the star?” he asked.
Kayley pointed to an inscription on the wall.
To find that which you seek,
Your touch alone you must keep.
“What does that mean?” Geoff scoffed.
Jason frowned, thinking. “Perhaps we are to abandon using our other senses besides touch,” he said.
Geoff scoffed again, but Kayley nodded. Jason took this as a good sign, and started forward, then looked back at the other two.
“Go ahead,” Kayley urged. “We’ll wait here.”
Jason nodded, closed his eyes, and walked forward, his fingers brushing the wall. Almost immediately a small flower came to his attention. He could see its brightness even through his closed lids. He carefully picked it and went back. He opened his eyes and saw Kayley staring back at him, dumbfounded.
“That was quick.” she said.
“Yeah. I guess it was,” Jason said, looking at the flower in his cupped hands.
Geoff snatched it away.
“Hey!” Kayley cried but was stopped when his sword point tickled her throat.
“What are you doing?” Jason asked.
“I didn’t poison Kilga just for you to get the cure,” Geoff spat.
Jason gasped in horror. “You did that?”
“Yes.” Geoff smiled.
“Why?” Jason asked, dumbfounded.
Rage contorted Geoff’s features. “Because of my family’s honour. Kilga dishonoured us, kicked us out. I got my revenge.”
Jason fumbled for his sword hilt. How could he defeat Geoff? He barely knew how to swing a sword.
“Well …” Jason searched for the words. Geoff was proud, very proud. Potential weakness? “Then your family must have done something pretty bad to get kicked out.”
Geoff faltered, allowing his sword point to drop from Kayley’s neck. Jason finally succeeded in unsheathing his sword, and stabbed Geoff.
“My … family … will … take … revenge!” Geoff rasped.
Then a rattle was heard in his throat, and he lay still.
Jason bowed his head. Kayley picked up the star and gave it to Jason.
“You did a good thing,” she said. “You’re a hero.”
Jason looked at the delicate flower. It was tiny and perfectly formed. It didn’t seem worth the trouble he’d gone to get it. Would it even save the entire village?
Jason pushed on the gate, which swung open on its hinges with a squeal. Even though he was back in Kilga, he still felt far away. He nodded to Kayley, then led the way to Sheba’s house.
“Sheba?” he called, knocking on the door.
“Come in, Jason, and do bring your new friend as well.”
Jason and Kayley looked at each other in surprise. They could hear Sheba laughing at them.
Jason opened the door and stepped in.
“You have it, then? Good, good. Give it here. Thank you. Go home and rest, Jason. You look dead on your feet.”
Jason was happy to obey and invited Kayley to stay in the guest room at his place.
Jason woke up to the sound of celebration. He climbed out of bed to see all Kilga celebrating that they were now free from sickness because of his hard work in getting the White Star of the Mountain for the antidote.
“There he is!” cried a voice, and suddenly the entire village was looking at him.
Jason tried to duck out of sight, only to find Kayley at his shoulder. “Don’t try to hide from it,” she admonished. “You deserve this.”
“It wasn’t just me,” Jason replied, and then he did the most spontaneous thing he ever had done: he kissed Kayley.
And such is the story of Jason McLean. He saved his village and was
regarded as a hero. He became Chief of Kilga and was a kind and just
ruler. He was wed to Kayley and saved the village from many dangers. He
is regarded as one of the greatest heroes of all time.