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"The Return" is about the call to battle that separated a family, which
later returned together.
"The Return" was written on 15th March 2003 by Daniel D'Agostino.
It was written as an essay to work out the
SEC past paper 2A
of May 2002, but was intended to be Ultima-inspired. While it can adapt well
to the Ultima storyline, it can just as well have a place in the real world.
Visit the notes section to learn more about it.
I got the essay back, corrected by my English teacher, on 18th March, and it was given an 'A' grade.
It is a short story, with just over 500 words, because of the restricted word limit of the past paper (I've exceeded it anyway... the maximum should be 400 words), so it won't take long to read it.
The wind whistled, as leaves were blown with it. The dark night sky was lightly lit by the pale moon. The village was not as silent as it usually was, and voices could be heard from every house. In one of these wooden houses, a robust man, in his thirties, stood up from his chair and tucked it neatly under the table.
He opened his voice to speak, but his throbbing heart silenced him. His weapon lay by the wall beside him, and although he was reluctant to use it, he was duty-bound to do so. He walked over and clutched the silver sword. "You see," he told the two smaller figures still seated at the table, "this sword is a family inheritance. It belonged to my great grandfather, and is several generations old. It hath always served our family well. Should I return, I will in turn leave it to Geoffrey."
"Why? Where art thou going, father?" the young boy, seated beside his mother, inquired worriedly. His mother started to sob silently, to hide her grief from her son.
"War rages on the mainland, my son. I am bound by duty to answer the call to battle." He fastened the scabbard around his waist and sheathed the glittering sword. "I am loath to leave thee, Geoffrey, but the king has called the men of Britannia to defend it from the invaders, and I must answer the call. This sword has never failed my ancestors, and I hope it will serve me just as well."
"Be strong, my son, for one day I will return to Skara Brae. Take care of thy mother in my absence." The child jumped from his seat and embraced his father, putting on a serious, determined yet sorrowful and concerned look. "I will, father." Hearing that, the man smiled and left.
Thirteen years later, a dark figure, bruised and scarred from the war, made his way to the islands where the village of Skara Brae once lay. Once he arrived there, he realised that the village was no more. Only a young man remained.
The man turned to the youth and asked him what had happened. "The village hath burned for days on end," he explained, "as the enemy raided, pillaged and razed it. Sorrow swallowed my heart as the wind slowly blew away the ashes of what once was our village. My mother was slaughtered, as were all the inhabitants of the village. They spared me, taunting me that my father would never return because he had died in battle. But I never believed them, and am still waiting for his return.
The elder man took out a sword, dented but still glittering. "Let's away from here." he told the youth, "Despite the sacrifice that hath broken mine heart, the enemy has been routed." He handed him the sword. "My son, thou wilt inherit this sword at the time of my passing, as have I from mine father. There is naught left here; we will start a new life elsewhere on the mainland."
The first part of the story pictures a father about to leave his family to fight at war.
"He opened his voice to speak, but his throbbing heart silenced him."
He could not find words to express himself and to explain to his son that he had to leave to fight for his country.
"I am loath to leave thee, Geoffrey, but the king has called the men of Britannia to defend it from the invaders..."
The man's son is called Geoffrey. I chose Geoffrey as a name so that it may just as well adapt with the real world.
Britannia might have been the old name for Britain (in the real world). Since the setting is Skara Brae, as mentioned a little later in the story, the village is either the Skara Brae we know, or else, if seen from the real point of view, it may be the Skara Brae located on the Orkney islands north of Scotland (consult picture, used with the kind permission of Greg Stanford). Therefore, the man would be defending Britain in the real world, or Britannia in the Ultima world.
"Sorrow swallowed my heart as the wind slowly blew away the ashes of what once was our village."
Compare this with the wind in the first paragraph. The wind blowing leaves in the first paragraph is a premonition of what will eventually happen, when the wind will instead blow the ashes of the razed village.
"Only a young man remained."
After thirteen years, the child had grown into a young man, living alone after the loss of the village, yet still waiting for his father's return.
"Despite the sacrifice that hath broken mine heart..."
The man speaks of the loss of the village, as sacrifices are always necessary to defeat an enemy.
"...we will start a new life elsewhere on the mainland."
Once again, there is a vague meaning of the word
mainland, which can either refer to the mainland of Britannia or else the actual Britain in the real world.