You approach the large theater hidden in the folds of the dark forest, wrapping your cloak tighter around your shoulders to fend off the autumn chill. As you draw closer, you hear laughter and merriment coming from inside. A ceremony is about to commence, and you don’t want to be late.
You pick up your pace and quietly slip into the echoing amphitheater. Hundreds of people have already filled the seats, all talking and laughing with each other. You find an empty seat in the back, hoping no one will notice you.
The red curtain on the stage begins to lift as the lights dim. Everyone falls into a hush as a spotlight falls on a man standing alone on the platform. His posture and expression command attention. He holds a faded scroll in his hands. You know him to be Strider.
“Welcome to our annual ceremony, friends,” he speaks to the audience. “We’re glad to have you here. I’m sure we are all eager for the ceremony to commence, so I will begin without further delay.” He unravels the scroll and begins to read.
“Let us begin. Our fifth place winner is a man who always has a clever quip at the ready, a man who some might consider rather pessimistic, but a man with a good heart, who cares for his friends and family. Our hero, Nick Beasley.”
You see a furry figure rise from the audience, and you crane your neck to see more clearly. It appears to be a Minotaur-like beast, sporting a shabby coat and vest. Horns protrude from his maned head, while a tail swishes behind him as he walks up to the stage. He doesn’t look thrilled to be in this position.
“I was really hoping I wouldn’t be looking like this for the ceremony,” Nick mutters. “But isn’t that just the way it is.” He reluctantly takes a small bow as the audience gives an appreciative round of applause.
“Thank you for being willing, all the same,” Strider says. “You may return to your place.”
The beast lumbers off the stage, muttering under his breath. You can’t tell what he’s saying, but it sounds disgruntled.
“Thank you, Nick,” Strider says. “And now our fourth place winner. This is a man who has been through many trials. He is as mysterious as he is noble, and despite his troubled mind he continues to push onward, even when his past…well, enough of that. Please welcome, Artham Wingfeather.”
You see a winged man rise, his expression stoic. He slowly approaches the stage, and you notice his fingers end in talons. “Thank you,” he says quietly. He dips into a simple bow to the audience’s applause.
“Thank you for being here, Artham,” Strider says with a smile. “You may be seated.”
The man returns to his seat without a word, but a quiet smile on his face. You can’t help but feel he has been through much more than any man should.
“Our third place winner, we can all agree, is a friendly soul. He is not only good-natured, but quick on his feet, of a sharp mind, and takes his responsibilities very seriously. Our hero, Will Treaty.”
You see a young man leap from his seat and quickly make his way to the stage, waving at the audience as he does. “Thank you all for supporting me,” he says as he approaches Strider. “It’s an honor to be here.”
“We’re all to pleased to have you here, Will.” Strider turns to the audience. “Everyone, please give our hero a round of applause.”
The audience breaks into a hearty applause for Will, a few whoops even being heard. Will bows deeply and then hurries off the stage.
“A fast one, he is,” Strider comments as the audience dies down. “And now, our second place winner. This young man displays a deep selflessness that is hard to come by. He would do anything to protect his family and is unafraid to take charge and be the leader his siblings need. Let us welcome, Janner Igiby.”
You see a young boy stand and make his way to the stage. You note that he is tall and lanky, all elbows and knees. He approaches Strider with a quiet confidence. “Thank you for having me,” he says with a bow.
“Thank you for being here, Janner,” Strider says. The audience needs no encouragement as they break into applause for the boy.
“You may return to your seat,” Strider says, gesturing to Janner. “Thank you.”
The young man returns to his seat, and you notice that he is sitting by Artham Wingfeather. Perhaps they know each other. The thought makes you smile but you don’t have time to reflect, because Strider clears his throat.
“And now, the moment we have all been waiting for. There is only one nominee left. Can you guess who it is?” Strider smiles.
The audience begins to chant. There is so much noise you can barely tell what they are saying. But you manage to pick out the name:
“Zero! Zero! Zero!”
The amphitheater vibrates with excited energy, and you strain to see the winner in the commotion. A man with spiky white hair and frigidly pale skin emerges. He looks intimidating, with his piercing gaze and blank expression.
“Is all this really necessary?” the man says as he approaches the stage. He crosses his arms and glances out into the audience before looking to Strider. “I don’t think this is necessary.”
Strider just laughs as he hands Zero the gold medallion.
“It appears the people have spoken,” Strider says with a grin. “You are the most epic hero of the 2021 Silmaril Awards.”
As the crowd wildly claps for their winner, Zero’s face remains emotionless as he accepts the medallion. But you can tell the man is secretly shocked he was chosen. Maybe he isn’t as cold as he first seems?
Strider pats Zero on the shoulder and gestures for him to return to his seat, where you see that he is sitting with two other men, both with smirks on their faces. Zero ignores them.
“And now, we have come to the end of it.” Strider takes a bow. “I am always so grateful to host this award, and I thank you all for coming to the ceremony. We appreciate all of you. To heroes!” he adds with a shout and a raising of his fist.
“To heroes!” the audience returns, raising their fists together.
“To heroes,” you say in a whisper, smiling to yourself. You rise to leave, quickly, before the mad rush of people.
Hiding under your cloak, you exit the theater into the cold breeze of the forest. You smile up at the moon as the leaves crunch under your boot steps. Maybe someday, your character will be awarded the most epic hero medallion. Who knows? Anything is possible. 😉