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These are the Rules of Being a Hero

Emily McCosh is a writer, sometimes-poet and daydream professional hailing from the land-of-no-rain, more commonly known as Southern California. Her writing is published or upcoming in AE Micro 2016, Perihelion Science Fiction, New Realm, and Myriad Lands, Volume 2. When not writing she may be found wrestling her two crazy dogs or creating a new character to play with. Visit her online as @wordweaveremily, or on her blog at oceansinthesky.com

Listen here, son. There are rules to being a hero, and sometimes it isn't best to learn them on your own--
No, no, she can wait. I know you're eager, but she's locked away, she isn't going anywhere. You can go to her any time. Just be patient....
Anyway, this won't take long.
Rule number one--
What? No. No, rule number one is not: never wear capes. That's just in the movies. Come on, be serious. You'll thank me one day.
Rule number one: I know everyone says the opposite, but they're wrong. You need to be scared. Bravery is not about fearlessness. If you aren't scared, then you can never be brave.
Rule number two: Now son, you're a little arrogant--yes, you are. Don't argue with your father. You're arrogant... and I'll admit, at this point you have reason to be. You make me proud. But here's the thing: don't pretend you don't need your friends. No matter what you think, you are not a one-man army. When you fall, you can't always pick yourself up.
I know you have plenty of friends. I know. But I'd like you to think on this. Sometimes the court jester can be a more loyal friend and companion than a knight.
Yes, I'm almost finished. Just be patient. Your princess isn't going anywhere.
Rule number three: You're not going to like this, but I need you to listen and one day you'll understand. Sometimes you're not always going to get the girl. After the rescue and the heroics and the fireworks and admiration, all that's left is real life. Sometimes she'll love someone else, sometimes you just won't be the right one. And when that happens, it'll be okay. You just need to keep searching.
Don't interrupt, because that's part of the next rule.
Rule number four: Your smile isn't always going to be magical. Your eyes will not always sparkle like diamonds. That hair of yours will not always look like that. One of these days you're going to be nothing more than a man. Choose a wife because you love her heart, and she loves yours. Just like me and your mother. When you have children, teach them everything you have learned and pray they do not fall where you fell. I know you can't understand this, but that may be the time when you are most a hero--
Why do I think I know a damn thing about this? Why should you listen to a feeble old fool like me? Because sometimes you tell your children those scars are from stumbling into a campfire, not from coming face to face with a dragon.
Son, don't go. You haven't heard the last rule.
Son, you can't leave yet--
Rule number five.... Son, I know you're not listening--you've already gone. But rule number five, well, it's the most important. When you've learned all the others, and even written some new rules of your own--there's one thing you must do and I think it's the one thing heroes never do....
Rule number five: Come home to me.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Author Comments

One thing that sticks with me through my work-in-progress fantasy novel, is that one of the main characters, although strong and brave, always comes home from victory filthy, battered, and bloody. And sometimes he loses. He's drastically different from the children's stories and fairy tales that shape our first views of "the knight in shining armor." He's more realistic, and he hurts more to read, and to write.

It took many attempts over a long period of time to create a way to bring the emotion of this story across. I started with a first person point of view from the character who inspired it, but it couldn't work. It couldn't be from him. Months later, it finally came together when I dreamed of a sad man's voice saying, "Rule number one of being a hero is: sometimes it hurts...." The story wrote itself from there.

- Emily McCosh
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