As part of my Online Tour for Stephen Aryan’s newly released: The Coward, some inspiration fluttered to my brain on a discussion post that I thought would be interesting to explore. The story of The Coward is based upon what happens after the hero completes their quest; looking at what they do with themselves, is there any repercussions after the quest and do they live happily ever after when they are rich and famous? I thought it would be fun to explore the ideas that could follow a hero’s journey and look at some of our heroes and what their retirement could look like.
There are several paths that a hero could follow at the end of their adventures, branching paths one could follow to live out their final days doing. The first one that comes to mind, is the typical fantasy trope ending for a hero, where they either live out their days as a farmer or open up a pub, telling their stories to the patrons to earn themselves a cheeky tip. My mind instantly wanders to Kvothe (Name of the Wind) or Druss (Legend), pretending they could actually have normal lives after becoming the world’s biggest heroes. This ending is common within both book, film and TV; the hero desperately trying to separate themselves from their past by doing something completely mundane and boring. However, the old calling always comes around and the hero can never truly help themselves, except to jump right back into the fray.
The next idea is a little of the opposite and in my opinion sometimes the easy ending for the hero. I find killing the hero in their final moments of bravery, sometimes a little bit of a cheap ending for them. This is another way to retire a hero that has been over done in the world of fantasy, when the author doesn’t quite know how to end their story (ending a story to me is the hardest part) so instead they give them a dramatic death. Their name may forever be encapsulated in both myth and legend, to be sung about by bards across the world but ultimately their story has ended.
Now to explore the other ideas I had for what could happen to our faithful and mighty heroes after their quests have ended. My first idea follows from the idea of Kell within The Coward, his heroic quest had not quite instilled the riches he thought he would receive but instead leaving him an anxious mess, struggling to deal with his own PTSD. Realistic after a hero has fought a pack of nasty goblins or slayed a dragon in a 1-1 match, then understandably they may be suffering from some mental damage, with fear gripping them to their last day. I could easily imagine a valiant hero reduced to spending his days an agoraphobic, trapping himself inside, away from the worlds other nasties. As much as Harry Dresden is an utter bad ass, after his endless set of books end and he is done fighting the universe’s most terrible demons, monsters and magical beasts, I would not be surprised if he locked himself away on his island, never to step foot outside ever again.
I am not proud to write this next one, as it is one that I would consider taking myself, mainly because I always like to win. A part of me would not blame a hero for deciding to join up with the all mighty boss of evil that has been trying to end the world, after spending pages and pages trying desperately to beat them, you do have to wonder sometimes if it would be easier to just join the bad guys from the beginning. My mind drifted to the Alex Verus novels, where he is constantly afraid of his master returning and destroying both him and the world. Part of my just wonders whether it is worth fighting back, or would their life just be easier if they turned. I wouldn’t blame them if I am honest, especially in cases where their story is based around an unknowing chosen one, who has no idea of their powers and yet they have to defeat a level 99 boss monster. Mike Shackle’s We Are the Dead, would play out so differently if the characters in the story simply gave up and joined the baddies, but then we wouldn’t have the gritty novels that we know and love. Even more sinister would be the hero defeating the villain and turning evil themselves, deciding they must be the most powerful being so why not dominate all the weaklings around them.
An ending which is aimed more towards a humour themed novel such as Orconomics, is having the hero opening up their own Hero training boot camp. Too tired and old to go on their own quests anymore, no longer wishing to push the boundaries since their chances of death have rapidly increased with age, instead deciding to train the next generation of heroes. I feel this could lead to quite a funny fantasy novel, where the powerful hero trains a set of potential wannabes, each with their own embarrassingly over the top hero name such as ‘Harold the unkillable demon destroyer’. The twist within the novel could be that every time one of their trainees goes on an easy quest for practise, they in fact die. Leading the hero to constantly question his own credentials as a hero.
The last thought is a little more on the romantic side, and one filled with more danger than any of the others. The last outcome for a hero could be to have a family. My thoughts are immediately pulled to both Clay Cooper (Kinds of the Wyld) or Orka (The Shadows of the Gods), who both have finished their days of murdering and squishing, wanting to live the quieter life and start a family. But this is another one that just never goes to plan, because with a family it just means you have more to protect. Some bad guy who is desperate for revenge will not hesitate at using your own family against you or murdering them in some horrific assassination attempt, leaving the hero crushed and alone for the rest of his life, knowing he had failed to protect the ones they loved.
I hope you enjoyed this post – The Coward is out June 8th so make sure you give it a read!
Review is here in case you are interested: