The Hero
by Michael Lanty

The hero walked down the center of the road thinking of a past time when roads were built and wondering why this one was built. He knew that all roads lead to somewhere, and wondered where this one lead. As he pondered this, he heard a noise ahead and quickly stepped off the road and concealed himself in a bush behind a tree. Careful not to move and give away his position, he watched the road carefully. Coming over the top of the hill he saw the lone enemy soldier. At first he was surprised to see just one lone soldier but, this he knew was to his advantage. Here was his chance to once again test his skills against the enemy.

His mind drifted back to a week ago when looking out of the window of his small farm house he saw the enemy soldier coming across the field. He knew they had a reputation of being merciless killers and were almost impossible to defeat. He wanted to flee but, this was his home and he would defend it. The only weapon in the house was an old sword that his grandfather had brought back from his travels abroad when but a young man himself. Stepping outside to meet the enemy the hero confronted him face to face with his sword in front, pointed straight at the enemy. The enemy raised his shield and lashed out with his weapon, which struck the hero's sword with no effect. The hero was so surprised that he lunged forward, somehow piercing the enemy's shield and burying his sword several inches into the enemy's midsection. The almost instant death of the enemy soldier made the hero surge with pride and awe at his strength.

Reality snapped the hero back from his reflections as the new enemy soldier was now only a few yards down the road and approaching slowly. Waiting until he could step out into the road within feet of the enemy, the hero tensed his muscles then sprang out. Once again he thrust his sword out in front in a defensive move as the enemy raised his shield and struck out with his weapon. And once again the metal sword deflected the enemy attack, allowing the hero to thrust forward through the shield and into the enemy. However, the hero quickly realized that this was only a wound. Thinking rapidly, he pulled back just in time to deflect another attack. Swinging wildly he managed, more by accident than design, to slice completely through the shield and dispatch the enemy.

The hero stood for a moment looking at the dead body. Should he hide it in the bushes or leave it to be found. He decided to leave it for all to see. Hoping that it would inspire others of his kind and put fear into the hearts, if they had one, of other enemy soldiers. Turning once again down the road and walking on the center line, he began to think what he would do if he ran into more than one enemy soldier, and hoped that he would not have to face this soon.

Several hours later, tired and hungry, the hero crested a hill and looked down across a wide valley. He stood motionless as he surveyed the scene below him. Straight ahead he saw a small village with houses and shops around a small square. Further down the road, about twice as far from the village as he was, was a large band of enemy soldiers moving toward the village. He did not have time to think. He would not allow this beautiful little village to be destroyed. Forgetting his tired, hungry body, he forged ahead at a rapid pace to do something, what he did not know.

As the hero approached the outskirts of the village he was met by the villagers fleeing. "Where are you going?" He inquired, thinking to himself that this didn't sound like the question a hero should ask.

"They are coming, turn around and flee with us, save yourself." Came the reply from several of the villagers.

"Why not stand and defend your homes?"

"Are you crazy. They cannot be defeated. We want to live. Out of our way."

Standing tall, the hero raised his sword still stained with the blood of the enemy, he yelled "They can be killed. Look at the stains on this blade."

The crowd stopped in its tracks and starred in awe. They couldn't believe what they saw. A man, not unlike them, standing with an old sword, claiming that he could kill the enemy. "Prove it came a voice from the crowd"

"Several hours back down this road is the body of the last, and not the first, enemy soldier that I dispatched with this sword." He didn't think it wise to admit that he had only killed two. Letting them think there had been more would improve his stature.

"How do you kill the unbeatable?" Came the same voice from the crowd. "Their shields are impregnable and their weapons deadly."

The hero hadn't thought about this, but had to answer fast to hold the crowd. "No! They can be killed. Their shields are useless against a sword and their weapons bounce off metal. They can be defeated. We must act rapidly to save your village. Send your women and children to the hills with the old men and young boys to protect them. I only need a handful of strong males to send the enemy back to where they came from."

Shocked and awed by this sudden tirade, the villagers rapidly organized the women, children, and escorts for their journey to the hills. As they left, there remained only a dozen men to help the hero, whose mind was racing to come up with a plan of some sort.

"You two go back to the other side of the village and see what the enemy is doing. I need to know how long we have, how many of them there are, and how they are deploying. You two start tearing down that barbed wire fence. You will need two strands long enough to stretch across the road twice. The rest of you go back into town and find anything made of metal that you can use as a weapon, make it as long as you can, and sharp if possible.

As they scattered, he hoped he could pull this off. He gathered all his strength and strode into the square to await the coming battle. Word from the two scouts came quickly. The enemy was about 100 strong and they had split into three groups. One group was coming straight into town and the other two were circling around either side to block off any retreat.

Long tense minutes passed as the villagers gathered what weapons they could find and the barbed wire fence was torn down. The hero organized the men into two groups of four and told them to hide on each side of the square. He then had the remaining four stretch the barbed wire across the square and hide on either side. He then stood alone waiting as he heard the enemy soldiers entering the far side of town and heading his way. He knew he had only a short time to defeat the first group coming at him.

Time for planning was at an end as the thirty enemy soldiers entered the far end of the square. They looked amazed to see one lone man standing as if to fight them all at once. They had become accustomed to seeing only fleeing, scared people running from them. One man or a hundred, they advanced, prepared to kill. Then just before the enemy band reached the hero, the four villagers hidden on the ends of the barbed wire jumped up, pulled the wire tight in front of the enemy soldiers and began to run around and behind them. The villagers managed to completely encircle the enemy soldiers and make almost another half circle before the enemy knew what had happened. Then with a yell of triumph, the hero attacked with his sword and from their hiding places came the eight villagers with rakes, shovels, and steel rods. In just a few brief moments the disoriented enemy had been surrounded, tied, and destroyed.

Quickly the hero gathered up the villagers away from the thirty dead bodies and headed across the square in the direction the enemy had come. He didn't want to meet the rest of the enemy but, wanted to watch from afar as they entered the square from what was now behind him. Just as the villagers and the hero had rounded the corner of a building on the square the enemy soldiers entered from the other side. They stopped in their tracks, amazed at the sight and shocked to see one lone man, the hero, striding across the square toward them. He had figured that attack would be futile, but possibly a good bluff might just work. And he was right, as the enemy soldiers broke rank and fled from what they perceived as their worst nightmare.

Word of this great victory spread across the land like wildfire. The enemy lost heart as villagers across the land began to take up arms, metal of course, and fight back. Then only weeks after that fateful attack a large cigar shaped object was seen leaving the planet and all that could be found of the enemy was a few dead bodies and their strange looking weapons which slowly rotted away, as a tree limb does in the forest.