Now that the hero has defeated the villain (or somewhat), he must reap the Reward, Stage Nine of the Hero’s Journey. The Reward isn’t always that, something positive. This stage deals with the consequences of surviving death. Encountering death is a big event. There will almost always be a period of time in which the hero is recognized or rewarded for having survived death or a great ordeal.
It’s a time for celebration. They’ve killed the baddie, and now they can enjoy their fruits of victory. Strength is needed for the return journey, so the Reward may be a time for rest, recuperation, and refueling. The heroes may brag about what they’ve done, relieved that the worst is over. It’s also a time for reflection. Having crossed into that strange territory of death, the hero can never be the same. For the reader, these scenes allow a moment for them to catch their breath after the ordeal. It is also a good time to get to know the characters better, and understand them more emotionally.
One of the most important aspects of this stage is the hero taking possession of whatever he came seeking. The hero takes possession of the magic sword, the lost treasure, the top secret file, the damsel, or whatever it may be. The hero has risked death or sacrificed life, and now he gets something in return… equivalent exchange. Most often, the Reward is a physical object, also giving this stage the name of Seizing the Sword. The idea of a hero Seizing the Sword comes from classic mythology and folklore in which heroes battle dragons and take their treasure.
Sometimes the Reward is experience, new perception, or an initiation in to a select group of people. They may gain supernatural power or something else of value. It may be peace after a time of war, or the safety of a threatened race or country. Other times, the Reward may be more of a consequence. Maybe the hero has upset the balance, angering other forces that he has yet to face.
Facing death has life-changing consequences. Once the hero has appreciated the Reward of the ordeal, they must turn back to the quest. They still have to get home, after all.