A Hero Reborn

Daunte woke up.

And then he was pissed.

He had to dig himself out of his own grave, so he could add that to the pile of ‘Experiences He Never Needed to do Again and Also Didn’t Want the First Time.” At first, there was so much dirt on top of him he didn’t think he’d be able to move at all. Heavy dirt. Old dirt. Full of roots. And, thankfully, a couple of tunnels from some ground rodent or another. Punching into the pockets of air was enough to get some traction going. He clawed through, forcing dirt under his fingernails until it hurt, but he kept going. Now that he was alive again, he had to breathe, and even the Savior couldn’t do that under pounds and pounds of soil and grubs.

Cool breeze brushed past his fingertips. With a final, monumental push he erupted out of the ground like some sort of overgrown, cursed daisy. He drew in air too soon, his lungs grabbing onto dirt particles, but he hardly cared. As he rolled around on the ground, coughing and wheezing and sputtering and also trying to get fresh air into his chest at the same time, he tried to notice if anyone else was around and if he needed to be on guard. It was really hard, though. Because of all the dirt in his lungs.

Finally the hacking lead to puking – nothing but bile seeing as how he hadn’t eaten in what he assumed was centuries – and finally he spit a few times and sat on the recently-upended dirt and tried to catch his breath. As he sat there, he took stock of himself and his surroundings.

It was an okay day. A real ‘whatever’ sort of mood. It was cloudy, and the clouds were a little heavy but not heavy enough to threaten rain. There was a certain humidity to the air, like it was raining somewhere, but for now he was dry. Felt like morning, but with the cloud cover he couldn’t be sure. Late spring, maybe early summer based off the warmth.

As for himself, he was a fully intact and alive human being as far as he could see. Dirty, of course, who cared about that? He wasn’t just bones. He had skin and muscle and hair and – he assumed – internal organs. Nothing was rotting. Nothing smelled like almonds. Even his callouses and scars were back. His hair was blowing in the breeze. Breath came in and out, heart went lub and dub and then lub again. Daunte was surely alive again. And for that, he was going to make them pay.

When he was sure he could stand without falling, he did. When he was sure he could walk without tripping over himself, he did. Apparently, he had been buried without shoes. That sucked. The occasional twig or stone dug deep into the soft underbelly of his feet, and every time it made him angrier.

After walking in one direction some ways he began to understand where he was. The Wide Plains north of Seluton. It was all a little bit different. Trees a little bigger and older, ground around stones worn away, a few villages on the very edges of his vision he hadn’t remember being there. But it wasn’t different enough. He hadn’t been dead very long at all. Daunte would bet money it hadn’t even been a thousand years.

Those pricks.

He didn’t head for the villages. If he was in the Wide Plains than less than a day’s worth of walking would get him to Seluton proper. If it wasn’t the capitol for these parts anymore, he’d figure out where he had to go from there. Hunger took him. Thirst too. He found the Mariposa River and stopped to wash the dirt off, then went up stream and drank heavily. He would not stop to hunt, nor would he stop for more water. Because while hunger and thirst were burrs stuck to the sides of his socks, his anger was a splinter shoved straight up his urethra. And he was going to let them all have it.

The evil had been defeated. He had mounted and led a campaign that had taken literal years to pull off. Planning. Cautious defeat of the Dark Lord’s henchmen and middle managers. Countless friends and allies lost. Witchcraft, wizardry, men, elves, dwarves, all races had come together and sacrificed countless numbers to create a better world.

Daunte’s sacrifice had been the greatest of all. That nefarious bit of magic had been discovered toward the end, only months before the final showdown. A twisted needle and thread that had bound Daunte and the Dark Lord together in ways neither of them had expected. If one died, so did the other. To kill the Dark Lord, Daunte would ultimately kill himself.

He didn’t tell anyone this, knowing it would dishearten them, but by the end he was ready for it. He had barely been out of childhood when the Dark Lord had started making moves. His life had been nothing but conflict. Any dreams he’d had of a regular life in his little seaside village, fishing and herding and building a home and having more kids, had been shattered early on. He gave up fishing nets for swords and thoughts of a cozy home for ones of violence. There had been no other choice. And after nearly a decade of it all, he was through. If he died killing the Dark Lord, then death would only bring him peace.

And it had. Quiet, earthy, dark nothingness was not the life of a fisherman, but it also wasn’t the life of a prophesized Chosen One, so he was fine with it. There was another part of that magic. A part he honestly didn’t think would ever become a problem. After all, once everyone had come together to defeat a great evil, who in their right mind would bring that evil back?

Daunte stalked into Seluton, mildly pleased to see it hadn’t changed much. Oh, sure, the buildings were taller and made of stone and there were plenty more people about, but the city was laid out the same as it had been. He didn’t get lost once marching through the streets to palace. He didn’t stop until he was directly in front of the king, surrounded by half a dozen guards with spears and an annoyingly large number of lords and ladies. He went to speak, found dirt still laid in his throat, and spat on the tiled floor.

“Which one of you absolute chucklefucks woke up that Dark Lord piece of shit?”

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