The fires burned bright in the darkness as people gathered round them, some cheering, some singing, and some simply staring silently at the flames. It was part celebration, part funeral service, the men, women, and children gathered here had won an important battle at a terrible cost, and every one of them knew someone they'd never see again. But underlying all the myriad conflicting emotions swirling through the camp, at their core was a single glowing thread: Hope.

They had survived the end of the world.

The hero watched it all from the shadows just outside the glow of the fires. These people looked to him as their savior, but the truth of it was that he owed them just as much as they owed him. He may have been the one who defeated the bringer of darkness, but it was their army that had held back the foe's own forces long enough for him to accomplish the task, and it was their tenacity even when it had seemed all was lost that had convinced him the world was worth saving.

He had mourned with them, before sunset, speaking words of praise for those who still lived, and commendation for the ones he hadn't been able to save. Then the celebration started, and it had been hours before he'd managed to get away. Now he turned away and stepped further into the night.

He came across a youth, only 15 years old; too young to be a soldier, but doubtless he'd fought nonetheless, everyone who could hold a weapon of any kind had. "You're not coming back, are you?"

The hero hadn't meant for anyone to see his departure; if he simply vanished during the celebrations, it would be considered another miracle, and he'd become a legend, not a man who could be sought out and found as easily as a lost horse. "I've served my purpose, boy; the battle's over, we won. There's no reason for me to remain."

"They say you're going to be crowned the high king, and rule over the other leaders. They say things are going to be different now." The youth had the kind of optimism that made the hero want to go back to the celebration, how much injustice had he seen on his way to this conflict? People were willing to follow him, why shouldn't he take advantage of that to make the world a better place?

No, he'd seen what that path led to, looked its end result in the eye over crossed blades. He knew what he had to do now. "I don't want to rule over anyone, I just want to get on with my life." The boy looked confused, but didn't say anything, apparently scared of offending the man who'd just saved the world.

"I wasn't born a hero, kid, I just got caught up in events that were bigger than myself and did what I had to. I seem to recall having a normal life at some point, and I'd like very much to return to it." He looked back at the lights from the camp and grinned ruefully. "I imagine they'll want to as well, once the celebrations start to wind down." He unbuckled his sword belt and handed it to the youth.

"Eventually, someone will recognize that, and ask where you got it. You can tell them whatever you like, but if you decide to make up a story, be sure to make it a good one." And he walked away, vanishing into the night.