I was sent the story to read to Don earlier today. We left the B&B without telling anyone. He wanted to leave without fanfare. I had planned on having some others present at the grave, but I don’t think that’s something he would’ve wanted.
It was just him, me, the pets, and Tara, I suppose. I read the story that perfectly summarized his adventure for him, written by “Pixelmage”. I’ve re-posted it below this. He sat, silently listening. Queenclaw was curled up on his lap. Charlotte rested to his side, and Binky nuzzled his face once or twice as I read.
When I finished, and saw him fading, I couldn’t stop myself. I asked him why he chose a fitting location like Tara’s grave if he simply wanted to leave quietly, without drama. His response, and the last sentence I heard from him, was this.
“I wished to return in the presence of my greatest failure, as well as my greatest success.”
And he was gone.
I don’t know who you are, where you hail from or what your intent is. But are you willing to listen to a story? A story about a man we once met. A stranger, a delusional old fool, stray from his land in La Mancha. His wanderings led him to us, lost from all those he once knew but not lost in his ideals. His heroics, as he called them, his only reason to live.
We watched the fool we heard stories about, who wouldn’t? Fearing he would lance at our windmills as he did at the ones in his home. His chivalric ideas were a burden to our order, his freedom a worry to us all. And he found our windmills, our dragons and demons and our princesses to rescue. There were none of these, yet he found them.
This is the story of that lunatic. The man challenged all wrongness in the world, cleansing wickedness and saving the innocent. Unless the evil took the shape of a spider, after all there can be no greater evil than those. And not even a true hero can overcome such a daunting obstacle. There’s no reason for me to tell that story, you imagine by now. But you didn’t see what our eyes witnessed.
From the lunacy came courage and from the simplicity, wisdom. Against evil, he didn’t rest nor desist, each small victory fueling the drive to face a bigger challenge. He was far from his friend, away from his horse. Yet he carried onwards in his beliefs. We still thought of him as a madman, but we began to wonder, was he really the insane person among us?
Our question was not unanswered. A small conflict dragged him, a woman in distress. To his eyes, that was black and white. No woman is ever wrong, no woman is ever evil and no woman ever has power of her own. We didn’t see it as such, of course, but try telling that to a stubborn old man.
His quest was hindered, twists and turns that could mislead a sane man sent him in a cycle of futile attempts, he was once again lancing at windmills. It was what he did, the only thing he did. At that point, we could have forgotten about him.
But his resolve as commendable and we once again started doubting our judgment of his actions. His failures began to dwindle, his successes began to accumulate. Yet once again he failed, his princess dead as the price of his failure. He was heartbroken as were we who watched helpless to assist… It was the end of that story. It was simply fate, the natural course, heroes do not exist. He who tries to change the world is killed by it.
The old man learned from his pain. He learned that he was no hero. He was a man like any other, wounded and weak. He learned that he had failed. And that he alone could fight to make right the injustice he witnessed. Not for glory, not for fame, not for the sake of heroism, but simply because it was right.
He found allies and friends. He charged for a fight that perhaps was already lost, because it was the right thing to do.
And he won. Villainy was punished and righteousness prevailed. And then he mourned the losses past, and he understood what he truly wanted when he first set out wishing to be a hero. His death approached, his victory bittersweet, his fight deeply moving. We would not allow his end to come. We fought it ourselves as he had unknowingly taught us. Never faltering in our belief that righteousness would win.
We gave him all our medicine and prayers, all the nectars we could muster. We would not let his story end. Not after he learned so much, grown so much. He was our friend, and as he fought for his friends, we too would fight for our dearest one.
It was a hard parting. He had lived and in his wisdom told us it was time for him to go back toLa Mancha, he missed the friends he left there, he knew that they waited for his return.
We said our goodbyes. With him a picture to remember his time with us, he rode back toLa Mancha, to once again meet his friend Sancho and his horse Rocinante, to tell them the stories of his time away from home and to carry onwards in the path of a true hero.
Yes, we parted ways with tears. And yes, he was a hero. A true hero that no one, not even the heinous spiders themselves, would be able to shake once again. He was the one true Don Quixote, the greatest hero of our times.