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The Call Left a Message

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"In 1978, a Comms Department intern heard the Hotline ring and picked it up - going against every safety protocol in the manual. She never recovered, and the handful of witnesses required... extensive memory repression therapy."
Dr. Casper Darling, Control, "Case Files: Hotline"

Sometimes, when the Call to Adventure is made, no one is there to pick it up. But You Can't Fight Fate, and the call won't take no for an answer. If no one's there to pick up, the call will leave a message that can only be "answered" by the person(s) that it was originally intended for. This also has the added benefit of dispelling any doubt that the character might not really be a hero.

It may be a literal message, or a magical artifact (usually a sword), but regardless of its form, it has the same purpose.


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  • The MacGuffins of Digimon Adventure's second arc, the Crests, only activate once their holder exhibits the trait that they were chosen for.
    • Though they can also force a dark Digivolution if what motivates the user is the abuse of their trait; for example, reckless courage rather than for the sake of protecting others. It happened to Tai when he Flipped Off Cthulhu to force Greymon's evolution.
      • The second season does the same thing with similar artifacts, and the fourth has Spirits.
  • The Clow Book in Cardcaptor Sakura: A strange-looking book, in the basement of the 10-year-old heroine, and of all the people who had handled it previously, she's the only one to unleash the cards.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Raising Heart, an intelligent device found by Yuuno, an archeologist, who could not use it properly despite being a trained mage. She becomes fully functional when she was given to the titular heroine, a resident of a planet without magic.

    Comic Books 
  • The Helmet of Fate tends to be this in The DCU. It will transform the person it was intended for into the hero Doctor Fate. If anyone else dons it, the results are not pretty.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, aliens leave the Monolith behind for humans to discover once they've advanced far enough to travel to the Moon.
  • In A New Hope, Princess Leia is about to be captured by the Empire and entrusts the droid R2-D2 with the stolen plans for the Death Star. She also has R2 carry a message for the reclusive Jedi master Obi Wan Kenobi, in which she begs him to take R2-D2 to her home planet Alderaan so the rebels can use the plans. Luke Skywalker acquires R2 and sees the first part of the message, but R2 refuses to play the rest for anyone except Obi Wan. When they finally track down Obi Wan and show him the message, he says that he's getting too old for this sort of thing and Luke will have to help him do it.

  • The Space Odyssey Series: In the original novel, aliens put a monolith one on Saturn (Jupiter in the film and in the novel sequels) for them to travel to when they've advanced far enough to do so.
  • The staff Drum Billet passes on to Esk in the Discworld novel Equal Rites.
  • The letters from Hogwarts that just ''keep on coming'. Throw one away? Another is delivered. Throw that one away? They come by the bucketload. Try to take him away to a remote place? A huge freaking giant comes and breaks down your door, bends your shotgun like a licorice stick and gives your son a pig's tail, THEN gives Harry his letter. At last. If that's not a Call to Adventure refusing to take no for an answer, what is?
  • Another one based on (or blatantly ripped off from depending on your perspective) Arthurian legend, in The Wheel of Time: there is the crystal sword, Callandor, the Sword That is Not a Sword, sealed in the Stone of Tear, which only the true Dragon Reborn can take from its resting place.
  • October Daye: Rosemary and Rue kicks off the plot with a message on Toby's answering machine from Evening Winterrose, ordering her to solve her murder - and geasing her in the process to ensure that it happens.
  • Villainous example in The Saga of Darren Shan where the Vampaneze have a coffin of fire, that only the true leader of the Vampaneze can sit in without dying horribly.
  • One of the books in the Redwall series delivers the message rather forcefully when a bolt of lightning knocks an heirloom sword from its hiding place on a high weather vane. The weapon comes within a few feet of skewering its intended recipient.
  • In Sword of Truth, a magical message left for Verna forces her to become Prelate of the Sisters of Light. Despite all the other Sisters trying first, it could only be triggered by her.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road, The Call comes to the hero in the form of a newspaper ad, specifically tailored to his interests, directing him to appear at a certain office at a certain time.

    Myth And Legend 
  • Older Than Print: Arthurian Legend has more than one of these. Other than the Sword in the Stone, the most notable is the Seat (or Siege) Perilous, which was Galahad's call. No one but the greatest knight could sit in it, and considering the number of enemies Arthur had, no one had either the confidence or pure innocence of purpose to actually take the seat until Galahad got to the court some weeks later.
    • In some versions of the legends, one knight did make a drunken vow that he would sit in the Siege Perilous. He regretted it when he sobered up but, rather than break his vow and be dishonoured, he sat in the seat and was incinerated.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, many Solars of the past left behind locks that only their reincarnated selves would have the knowledge to open. Paradoxically, solving the puzzle/activating the artifact/finding the hideout is how some characters became reincarnations to begin with (soul biology is weird).
    • The Twilight Charm "Letter-Within-A-Letter Technique" lets someone write a message that only its intended recipients can read. It's explicitly said that many Twilights used this Charm to communicate with their reincarnations.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Transformers: The Movie, even after the Autobot Matrix has been given to Ultra Magnus, nothing really happens until Hot Rod gets a hold of it and becomes Rodimus Prime.