Well, here we are! I’ve mostly tended to be very accurate in this story to the Nintendo game Dragon Warrior, but Gwaelin’s homecoming is finally where I fudged a little bit. I mean, carrying her right into the throne room, filthy and disheveled? How undignified! I think no one will mind a little added romance.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of accuracy, though. That blurb about the legend of the Wings of the Wyvern? Right out of the instruction manual. #nerdcred. My sister and I loved this game as children, and I hope I’ve managed to bring it to life for you. Enjoy!
There was moonlight to see by, but only just. The magical spell of radiance dimmed when the descendant of Erdrick cast the spell of escape, putting him and the liberated princess of Alefgard at the entrance of the swamp cave. The swamp looked less dismal now in the dark, but the young hero knew the night only hid greater danger. He could not take Gwaelin this way. Luckily, he was prepared.
“A moment, my lady, prithee,” the young hero implored, carefully setting the princess down on dry rock. She seemed steady on her feet, though they clearly pained her. He kept an arm around her to brace her– just in case, he told himself– while he fished in a pouch on his belt. In a moment, he withdrew what looked like a small toy or charm.
The leading edge of the wing was a simple sweep of gold, affixed to which was a row of tiny blue covert feathers overlapping another row of white primary and secondary feathers. The whole thing fit in the palm of his hand, marvelously made; it seemed a tiny, painstaking replica of a wyvern’s wing. Gwaelin looked at him questioningly, and he smiled.
“It is said that when lightning strikes and kills a wyvern, its wings fall down to earth with their magical flying powers still intact,” he informed her, his eyes twinkling mischievously. “Shall we find out?”
Gwaelin’s fern-green eyes widened, mostly in surprise, but somewhat in fear she tried to hide. “Hast thou never flown ere, then?” she asked with admirable steadiness, earning a tender smile from him.
“Nay,” he said softly. “But thou art safe with me. Dost thou believe it?”
Struck by the tone in his voice, Gwaelin nodded mutely, her eyes on his. He smiled widely and tightened his hold on her as he tossed the charm in the air above them. In the blink of an eye, it grew to match the size of an actual wyvern’s wing, glimmering faintly in the sparse moonlight.
And then the world shifted, and they found themselves clinging tightly to each other. It felt like being lifted suddenly into the air, but it happened so quickly it seemed their feet could not have had time to leave the ground. After a dizzying moment, blinking in the dark, they realized they were standing at the gates of Tantegel Castle, the magical wyvern’s wing nowhere to be seen.
The castle and the nearby town of Brecconary sparkled on the edge of the narrow channel of moonlit water, like glittering jewels on a bright necklace. It was so quiet, they could hear the lapping of the water against the shore, the call of an owl from the dark forest nearby.
Gwaelin’s shining eyes were fixed on her home, bright with tears of joy, but the descendant of Erdrick felt his gaze drawn inexorably across the channel. There Charlock Castle– the dread abode of the Dragonlord that had stolen Alefgard’s princess and the Ball of Light– loomed boldly, easily visible from Tantegel Castle and Brecconary, an inescapable reminder of the evil that threatened to steal or destroy everything worth cherishing. Wreathed by craggy, pale mountains that jutted forth from the putrid swamp like an ogre’s teeth, the dark walls of Charlock stood out in stark relief, defiant and foreboding.
The young hero shook himself mentally and forced his attention back to Gwaelin. He could not mar her homecoming with any cause for concern or alarm. By the time she remembered him, looking back up into his face, he was smiling gently again.
“Art thou ready, princess?” the young hero asked quietly.
Her smile was radiant as she nodded, and Gwaelin laughed joyously as he swept her off her feet again and proceeded to carry her into the castle. Perhaps this was not the most dignified way to return to one’s kingdom . . . but Gwaelin, for the first time in her memory, did not particularly care for dignity.
The drawbridge immediately started to lower as they approached, and they could hear horns being sounded, surging over the plains and echoing from sleeping Brecconary, ti-ro-ho-ho, ti-ro-ho-ho! The sound was rich and bright, heralding good news. Candles and lanterns started to flicker to life in windows, prompting quiet laughter from the two entering the castle.
“Would that we had come at sunrise, doubtless a parade worthy of thy honor would have been arranged,” the young hero said apologetically.
“This is perfect,” returned Gwaelin softly, causing them to share another smile.
Hardly were they through the gates of the castle before the chaos started, guards cheering raucously and banging their swords against their shields, sleepy handmaidens in hastily donned robes sobbing into their handkerchiefs, servants hugging each other and dancing. King Lorik himself came stumbling down the stairs in his nightclothes with his hair all awry, and Gwaelin squirmed in her hero’s arms until he put her down so she could stumble to her father in turn, where they wrapped their arms around each other and burst into tears.
The young hero stood a while, content to be forgotten, and basked in their joy, closing his eyes as he took it in. Worth it, all worth it, every hardship he’d endured. A loud noise startled him into opening his eyes again in time to see a hastily prepared firework bloom in the sky, followed by more, sporadically, as it occurred to someone to do so. No one in Tantegel or Brecconary was sleeping tonight, it seemed.
At some point the servants regained enough of their decorum to see to the tired hero, finding him accommodations, preparing a rather impressive hot meal for him, especially on such short notice, promising him that the king and the princess would certainly want an audience on the morrow. The young hero, exhausted as he was, was grateful to be swept away by all these well-meaning attendants . . . but his eyes clung to Gwaelin as long as they could before the hero and the princess were bustled out of each other’s presence.
Everyone slept late the next morning, unsurprisingly. The sun was somewhat past its zenith when the rested and refreshed descendant of Erdrick was summoned to the throne room. He was very pleased to see how well the eager-to-please servants attended to his supplies and person. His armor was being repaired at that very moment, but he had been adorned with care as the hero he had proven himself to be. His clothes and boots were shining, his new cape was immaculate, they’d even sent a barber in that morning when the maids came to fill a bath for him. He felt– and probably looked– like a new man.
Therefore, it was with pardonable pride that the young hero mounted the steps to the throne room that afternoon. He entered and knelt– which he had never done before, but then he had never been formally summoned before either– careful to be exceedingly respectful, keeping his eyes lowered until he was asked by King Lorik to rise.
After he got to his feet, however, the young hero was shocked into stillness, for of course, his eyes instantly alighted on Gwaelin. He had been amazed at her poise and grace yesterday, despite her being as filthy and exhausted as he. If the servants had attended Alefgard’s hero with care, Gwaelin’s handmaidens had seen to her toilette with downright zeal; she shone like a star, and had eyes only for him.
The hero blushed and was compelled to clear his throat, embarrassed, when he realized everyone in the room had been letting he and the princess drink each other in with their eyes in respectful, almost indulgent silence, and for not a short moment either.
The king’s voice was warm, and very pleased, when he promptly spoke. “Forever shall I be grateful for the gift of my daughter returned to her home, hero.” He paused, and in a moment of inspiration, bestowed a more fitting title. “Dragon Warrior. Accept my thanks–”
“And mine,” Gwaelin interrupted sweetly, causing her father to bite his lip on a surprised chuckle. “Hero of Alefgard, I would give thee a gift. Prithee, approach the throne.”
How out of character for his daughter not to maintain the most careful etiquette! King Lorik was amazed into silence, and most thoughtful when he saw the young hero bow deeply before complying, and noted the favor in Gwaelin’s eyes.
“Even when we two are parted by great distances, I shall be with thee,” Gwaelin said quietly, offering him what was in her cupped hands.
Curious, the young hero inspected the item as she held it. She must have thought to commission it before she slept? He could not help but be amazed at what the palace jeweler must have accomplished overnight. It was simple and elegant, and seemed to be made of gold, something between a pendulum and a compass. Above a small gold arrow that seemed to be able to spin in a full circle to indicate a direction was a delicate cameo of Gwaelin herself.
In an even softer voice than before, Gwaelin whispered, “Please accept my love, my hero.”
His eyes snapped up to hers, surprised, and he was awed and humbled by what he saw in them. Swallowing a lump in his throat, he nodded, well knowing what all she offered, and lifted the pendulum out of her hands reverently, holding it by the cord.
The palace jeweler and magician, it seemed, had accomplished miracles last night. The young hero smiled in delight when the golden arrow immediately rotated to point right to Gwaelin herself. She smiled a watery smile, her eyes asking if he was pleased. They spilled over with tears when he answered.
“I love thee, Gwaelin,” he said softly, quiet but sure. It felt to them both like he must have shouted it. Indeed, no one else in the room heard it with their ears, but their hearts knew the meaning of the smile the princess and her hero shared, and no words were needed.
“Heed my voice, my hero, for this is Gwaelin,” the Dragon Warrior heard her voice murmur, quiet but sure. “My hope is with thee. From where thou art now, my castle lies . . . seventy leagues to the north and . . . forty leagues to the east. I love thee.”
“And I love thee, my princess.” The young hero always said the words after he used the magical compass Gwaelin had given him, the gift of her love. He had no idea if she could hear him, and he supposed it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was that he loved her, and he could hardly wait to see her to tell her again, a hundred times, as often as she wished to hear it, and more for good measure. What a surprise, what a gift, that it spoke with her very voice! Sometimes he used the compass merely to hear it.
But not today. In Cantlin he had learned what he needed to prove his heritage, what would make his worth known to the old man in the cave south of Rimuldar, the man who would make him the Rainbow Drop from the Stones of Sunlight and the Staff of Rain he had finally collected. The old man in Cantlin had showered him with blessings and told him where he could search, and here he was, south of Cantlin . . . in yet another burning, putrid swamp.
Bracing himself, the descendant of Erdrick plunged his free hand into the mire, searching. After a long moment, his hand closed around a circular object and he pulled it up. The medallion was dripping with grime, but the heavy gold still managed to shine in the sunlight. His heart soared. Erdrick’s Token, his legacy, his birthright, lost for all these years! At last! At long last, he could reach the Dragonlord’s isle and challenge him for the stolen Ball of Light.
The young hero of Alefgard, the Dragon Warrior, realized he probably looked like a fool, standing here in a poisonous swamp in the middle of nowhere, grinning like an idiot and clinging to this forgotten, discarded disc of metal like it was a crown jewel. He laughed aloud, the sound ringing in the desolation. He could be anywhere at all. With Gwaelin’s Love, could he ever really be lost or alone?
Gwaelin had led him to the proof of his heroic lineage, had guided him to a precious gift. His whole life he had known the truth of his origins but had never been able to prove it, and who would believe such an outlandish claim without proof? Because of her, he was no longer a pretender, no one could doubt him now. Saving her kingdom from the Dragonlord seemed the least he could do in return.
He kissed the compass in his left hand before carefully putting it away, and clenched the token in his right, looking northwest, toward Gwaelin, and toward the Dragonlord. It was time to see this through. There was only one gift he could give Gwaelin that was worthy of what she had given him. The next time he came into her presence, he would kneel, offering up the Ball of Light in his hands.
Picture credit: Magnificent, isn’t it? This is out of a rare Dragon Quest artbook by Mutsumi Inomata: http://gallery.minitokyo.net/download/441079