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Lullaby


by precious_katuch14

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Night had fallen upon the peaceful land of Meridell, its stars guiding the weary travelers who were still out in the darkness with not a lamp or a light to guide them. Most of the residents were at home, either sitting around or already sleeping. Shops were closing, guards were changing shifts with those who were going on a night assignment, and small villages within the kingdom faded away into the dimness as every light in their windows was extinguished.

     In a small cottage within a village quite far from the castle, a little white Blumaroo stirred in his sleep, creasing his worn pillow and rumpling his quilt. His eyes blinked open for a second before he turned over to the other side. After a few more seconds, he turned back to the side he was facing before.

     "I can't sleep," young Reuben murmured to himself, feeling his head spin. Rubbing his eyes and yawning widely, he staggered out of bed and groped around his room for the door. He walked out in his slightly raggedy slippers and went to the nearest door. Raising one of his fists, Reuben began to knock.

     He steadied himself as he heard footsteps behind the wooden planks, and the doorknob turned. A few seconds later, he found himself staring at another white Blumaroo, a female one clad in a simple lavender nightgown. She was holding a candleholder with a lighted candle which illuminated her kind yet dreary face.

     "Reuben," she whispered. "You are still up at this time? Why?"

     "I can't sleep," he repeated softly. "Mother, can you tell me a story?"

     Melissa scratched her head as she ushered her son away from the bedroom she shared with Reuben's father. "Well…I'll see," she answered. The older Blumaroo turned the knob leading to the little one's own room and set her candle onto his bedside table.

     Reuben hopped back into bed reluctantly. "I'm worried about Father…I guess that's why I'm still awake." He blinked his large dark brown eyes blearily, recalling his father, who was a yellow Blumaroo committed to being a knight of Meridell. Now he was gone, called away by the king on some obscure mission and left his little family behind.

     His mother tucked him in gently, smoothing out a few untidy folds in the quilt. "I know Reynold, and I know that he can keep himself safe just as he keeps the kingdom safe. Now, about that story…" Melissa thought for a moment before settling herself on the chair beside Reuben's bed.

     Unfortunately for the older Blumaroo, she had run out of timeless tales to treat her son to. Biting her lip anxiously, Melissa racked her head for any more ideas. But every single story she could remember had already been told at some point in Reuben's life. There were real anecdotes about his father, but Reuben probably already knew them all by heart.

     "Well…have you heard the story of the Symol in Illusen's Glade?" she asked.

     The young white Blumaroo nodded furiously.

     "Uh…have I told you about the three little Bearogs and the terrifying Aisha?"

     "Twice," said Reuben simply.

     Melissa sighed. What was she to do? Her thoughts wandered back to her own mother, who had often put her to sleep after many a terrifying nightmare with something other than a faerie tale. "Well…how about a lullaby?"

     "What's a lullaby?" he asked. Being quite little, Reuben still didn't know what a lullaby was.

     "It's a song used to put little munchkins like you to sleep," said the female Blumaroo, ruffling his hair.

     "A song for sleeping?" asked her son. "How does it go?"

     Melissa cleared her throat, and the lines slowly began pouring into her. She had known the lullaby by heart.

     Stars dancing over you

     The moon smiling too

     The day ends here

     Night looms near.

     Lift up your sorrows

     Save them for tomorrow

     Sleep, dream and rest

     Be comforted in your nest.

     Reuben's ears picked up every last word, and he felt himself slowly being lulled to sleep. His eyelids became steadily heavier. "That was…nice," he commented, stifling a huge yawn. "Did your own mother write it?"

     She shook her head. "Not really…I think her grandmother wrote the song. Ever since then, it has always been used in our family. Now, good night, and may you have sweet dreams."

     "I know I will," her son whispered. "Good night."

     "Good night, Reuben," answered Melissa, picking up her candle and shuffling off to her own room after checking him one last time.

     * * *

     Ever since that night, Reuben always asked for the lullaby, claiming that it put him to sleep faster than stories, though he even struggled to stay awake just to hear every bit of the story. As a few years passed and he slowly grew up, he also memorized the song by heart, down to the last note and syllable. Thankfully Melissa never tired of singing it to him.

     But one sunny afternoon, while he was outside in the front yard of their home playing with his friends, their conversation unexpectedly turned to nightmares.

     "You said you once had a nightmare about a giant Kadoatie making your ears ring and you were still able to sleep after that," a curious yellow Ixi was saying. "How'd you get rid of it?"

     "My mother sang me a lullaby," he replied simply. As the answer spilled out of his mouth, the white Blumaroo wondered why his friends were dumbstruck instead of awed or interested. Even the Ixi who had plopped the question raised an eyebrow.

     "Did you say…a lullaby?" asked a nearby Kougra. He bit his lip as though to keep from laughing. One of his large eyes twitched slightly. "Are you sure?"

     Reuben nodded. "Yeah, are you deaf or something?"

     The Ixi blinked. Everyone stared back at him. The Kougra who had spoken stifled a snicker.

     Unfortunately, he didn't stifle much of it. The small snicker grew into a mass of chuckles before all of Reuben's friends sank into a huge gale of laughter. What was going on? An Aisha rolled around on the grass, clutching his stomach as he chortled away.

     "Okay, so what's going on?" asked the Blumaroo. "Why's everyone laughing?"

     "You're…you're…" The Aisha sat up, shaking with giggles. "You're such a baby!" he blurted out, pounding the ground in excess mirth. "You still need lullabies to put you to sleep? That's RICH! That's so…baby-like!"

     "I'm not a baby!" But Reuben's words barely made any difference as his friends continued lolling about. He glared at them, narrowing his dark eyes. "You guys went to sleep with your mothers singing you songs at some point in your life, right?"

     The Kougra stopped laughing instantly. "'Course we did," he retorted, suddenly looking more serious. "But that was a long time ago, wasn't it, guys? Apparently Reuben here hasn't grown up enough yet."

     The other pets nodded in assent, some of them smirking at the white Blumaroo, who felt a scarlet blush creeping within his cheeks.

     "If I weren't all grown up, then I would probably still stay in my room sucking my thumb and babbling things that even I couldn't understand!" he said hotly.

     Nobody was listening. They had immersed themselves into their laughter again. In fact, none of them noticed Reuben stomp back into his house and slam the door behind him.

     The mirth was probably loud enough to drown out the door slamming shut.

     * * *

     After dinner, Melissa followed her white Blumaroo son as he trudged off to his bedroom.

     "Are you feeling…all right?"

     Reuben grunted. He was still feeling the pain of being teased by his friends just because his mother still sang him a lullaby every night. Speaking of which, Melissa's kind face was actually enough to remind him of that.

     "I'm going to bed," he answered gruffly.

     The older Blumaroo followed him. "Do you…need me to sing the - "

     "I'm too old for lullabies, Mother!" he finally retorted, feeling the anger and embarrassment boil within himself. "My friends were right - I AM too old for that baby stuff! Leave me alone! I can sleep on my own, without any stupid song to accompany me!"

     He stepped into his room and threw the door shut so hard that the noise echoed throughout his domain. Reuben changed into a nightshirt and fell into bed, still vexed about what had happened. Sure, he had told his mother the truth that he was probably outgrowing the lullaby tradition, but he later on regretted having to yell at her like that. Why did he have to shout?

     The night brought in a cold wind as well, making the white Blumaroo pull up his blankets over his head. He shivered, trying to fall asleep without the lullaby. But it had proved to be harder than he thought; having grown up with that song always filling his head whenever he was ready to doze off…

     Melissa's son recalled the tune as he desperately attempted to clear his head of the jeers and sneers which have filled it since that afternoon…

     Stars dancing over you

     The moon smiling too

     The day ends here

     Night looms near.

     He buried his head underneath his pillow, breathing in the scent of his covers. Reuben yawned…and then realized that he just yawned, and that his eyelids were drooping, as if his mother had been singing to him.

     Lift up your sorrows

     Save them for tomorrow

     Sleep, dream and rest

     Be comforted in your nest.

     Apparently, he didn't have to let his mother sing the lullaby for him. They were right - he didn't need her to do it anymore.

     Knowing it by heart, he could just remember it and fall asleep in an instant.

     And that was what he did.

The End

Author's note: Do the lead characters sound familiar? Well, they are the same Reuben and Melissa in "A Hero's Journey", my series published starting from issue 222, only a few years younger.

 
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