Up groaned loudly as he sat up a few minutes later. He held his face in his hands and moaned as he sat on the wooden floor. Scruff patted him on the shoulder and handed him more water, which he drank.
"Someone isn't too fond of heights," Scruff teased gently. "We'll take you down to the ground if you like."
"I'd appreciate that," Up replied. "But how do you propose I get down?"
"There's a tunnel carved inside the tree. It spirals down to the ground. The rabbits use it to walk up the stairs when they want to visit us," Poof answered.
"There are rabbits here?" Up said, surprised.
"Oh yes," said Poof. "A couple families live at the base of the tree, and there are three or four others that have farms out in the fields a ways. Some mice live in the area too. Everyone is friendly enough, but most of us are pretty independent of each other. You might change that though."
"Why would I change that?" Up asked, puzzled. Poof looked at Scruff apprehensively.
"Why don't you have a seat on the bed, there... say, we haven't bothered asking your name. What are you called?" Scruff asked.
"My name is Up," he replied, sinking back onto the bed, grimacing from his body-wide pain.
"Y'see, Up, all these rabbits and mice that Poof told you about, and us too, we haven't always lived here. A long time ago, far to the north, on the other side of the river, we all lived as peasants under the cruel King Omega. He was a vicious, merciless and soulless black wolf, who forced all of the smaller animals into poverty. Our people lived like that, oppressed and hopeless for many years under Omega and his army of dark wolves.
"But one day, we were given hope. Three village elders were each given a prophecy. The first foretold of a fruitful and peaceful land far to the south of the river, where we could find freedom. The second told of a great warrior, who would come from the heavens to lead us. The third told of a shining city, unlike any before seen, rising around the place of the hero's arrival."
"And you think I'm this great warrior?" Up asked skeptically.
"Do you see anyone else falling from the sky around here, dear?" Poof asked gently.
"I'm no hero," Up said solemnly. "You've got the wrong guy."
"Up, you battled an eagle, fell from the sky, and survived the whole thing with only a broken arm! What part of that doesn't seem miraculous to you?" Scruff declared.
"If I was a hero," Up answered, "my brother would be alive."
Scruff and Poof were silent for a long while, their eyes cast to the floor.
"Up," Poof said quietly as she sat on the bed next to him. "I'm truly sorry about your brother. And I'm sorry that you couldn't be the hero that he needed." She put her paw on Up's shoulder. "But, he isn't coming back. The only thing you can do now, is be a hero for someone else who needs it. And we need it, Up. We need you to be our hero. Whether you believe you are or not, it doesn't matter. But you can give us more hope than we've ever had, if you let us believe that you are."
Up stared at the wall at the head of the bed, not making eye contact with the squirrels. His breathing was uneasy, and he shook a bit. He sniffed loudly, wiped his eyes quickly with his good paw and cleared his throat.
"All right," he said. "I'll be your hero."