Another Hero's Journey: Part One
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It is highly recommended that you read the prequel, "A Hero's Journey", published from issue 222 to 231 before reading this story.
The face of a white Blumaroo peeked out through his bedroom window and into the world outside the cottage he called home. His dark, dark eyes, looking like shining black opals, scrutinized the Meridellian landscape. He drummed his right paw on the sill, looking out into the horizon. The sun was shining high in the sky as though smiling down on the kingdom and on Neopia as a whole. Its heat made him roll up the sleeves of his simple blue shirt and adjust his brown vest. Apparently, it wasn’t a good idea to wear something with long sleeves, or long tan breeches. He had even kicked off his boots after realizing how stuffy his feet got inside them.
No wonder sunny became another word for bright, chipper or happy, thought Reuben. The illuminated midmorning sky was a stark contrast to his current mood and seemed to be trying to cheer him up despite all the things currently bothering him.
Reuben had recently been hurled into a huge whirlwind of strange and weird events that really threw everything off balance, starting with the announcement that he had a little brother. He remembered how Rohane was quite the enigma... how a rivalry eventually sparked up between them... how this rivalry was suddenly broken when this particular yellow Blumaroo saved his life.
But just as soon as they had learned how to get along, Reuben thought that it would be all over.
Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t.
Their family – which included him, Rohane and their mother Melissa – received the news that Sir Reynold, the father figure who completed their family, had recently given his life while fighting off the forces of King Skarl’s horrible advisor. Ramtor had locked the true king away and taken over, sapping Meridell for his own personal benefit. Reynold was one of Skarl’s best knights, and trained his two sons to become warriors themselves when he wasn’t in battle.
It was easy to imagine how close the pair of young Blumaroos had been towards their father and how much they grieved over losing him.
But Melissa, having been the knight’s closest friend for such a long time, was nearly inconsolable. Reuben had dropped his ambitions of becoming a hero in favor of helping his mother adjust to the situation. Eventually he moved up in rank to become the new man of the house.
As for Rohane, he had decided to help in a different way. Taking up Reynold’s old sword – the last one he used before his untimely end – he set off for adventure. Quite a few of his acquaintances, including his mother and older brother, had contradicted his proposal. In the end, they all gave in and allowed the yellow Blumaroo to go out there, try his luck and hopefully return home alive.
Reuben snapped out of his daydreaming. He could vividly remember those last few words he had told his sibling. The sight of Rohane stepping out of the cottage and out into the open gave him a mixture of feelings that made things even more complicated. That was the icing on the cake of chaotic memories.
Gritting his teeth, the white Blumaroo jumped off the chair he had been sitting on, and decided to pace about. More questions began to flood his head.
Should he have gone off to accompany Rohane? Why has he stayed so elusive for the past several days, not even writing letters to his sibling and mother? What chance would he have against a powerful, power-hungry guy like Ramtor, who was able to beat King Skarl? Why did he have to leave what was left of their family when they were already getting the hang of putting up with each other?
“Would you like lunch, dear?”
He jumped. It felt a lot like ten feet, when it was only a foot or so off the wooden floor.
“Mother... it’s only you.”
The female white Blumaroo smiled, wiping her paws on a towel. A white apron touched by a few small food stains was spread over her blue dress, and her face clearly showed that she loved whatever she had been doing a few moments ago.
Melissa walked up to her remaining son, scrutinizing his every move. “You’re troubled,” she observed.
“I’m fine,” he answered. “I’m only worried. Our lives haven’t exactly been moving smoothly, have they?”
“As much as I hate to admit it... no,” said Melissa, standing beside Reuben, who was leaning against the wall of his bedroom. “But we’ve learned how to manage, haven’t we?”
The younger Blumaroo mumbled something.
“Worried about your brother, aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I guess. You could say I’m a little afraid because he could end up like... Father.”
Both of them froze briefly. As much as possible, they usually tried not to think about what happened to Reynold and what could happen to Rohane.
“I know how you feel,” said Melissa finally, anxiously twisting the hem of her apron. “Well, lunch can’t be kept waiting. Come, we even have a visitor.”
His mother ushered him out of his room and into the kitchen (their house had only one floor) before he could ask who the guest was. Needless to day, he did not have to. The sight of a lonely red Aisha sitting at their humble table, elbows perched on it and face scrunched up and framed with long brown braids, was enough.
“Hi there, Reuben,” she greeted him morosely.
The white Blumaroo raised an eyebrow. “Li, why the long – oh, right.”
Liwanag, the red Aisha, was Rohane’s second closest friend, after Reuben. She was also struck down quite considerably with the fact that he had left to risk his life out there while Ramtor was still holding Meridell down. Reuben vividly recalled the precise moments when Li had started to cry upon hearing her comrade’s plan and when she even stormed out of their house because of such.
She barely said anything throughout lunch, except when Melissa would ask how her parents’ business was going or if she had learned some new method of growing potatoes. For some reason, Reuben was even more silent, his brain back to thinking about his brother and all the catalyst events that twisted his life around till it was more convoluted than a pretzel.
While he silently began to move his food around his plate, Liwanag finally decided to speak. However, what she began to say did not cheer Reuben up one bit.
“I am distraught,” she whispered after chewing. “I have had some bad dreams for the past few nights, and I’m hoping that they aren’t a sign of things to come, especially for Rohane.”
“I do hope he’s all right as well,” said the white Blumaroo in agreement. “But...”
“Still, I think it was quite brave of him to go out like that even after his father failed in the same mission,” said Melissa. “He has his father’s charisma.”
The red Aisha nodded. “He could probably succeed Sir Reynold and become the next knight in your family,” she predicted.
“Yeah, well...” Reuben was starting to feel even more uncomfortable by the minute. As he slowly devoured whatever was on his plate, his ears continued picking up every tidbit of the conversation.
The entire thing revolved around his little brother.
* * *
A few hours later, after a short afternoon nap, Reuben walked over to the marketplace in their village to buy more vegetables. He had the basket and the money, and knew where to go first. He stopped by the first stall, which sold corn. The white Blumaroo could vividly remember his mother’s attempts to grow corn, and how futile they had turned out.
The shopkeeper, a rather short Draik who propped his feet up on a small table while reading a thin novel, glanced at his customer and instantly jumped up.
“Well, well,” he greeted him, “if it isn’t the elder son of Sir Reynold. Pray tell, why are you not off avenging your father, not continuing his legacy of knighthood?”
“I have to stay and take care of my mother,” was the tart reply. Reuben examined a cob and placed it in his basket. “I’ll pick two more and pay. She wants to have some corn soup tonight.”
A nearby Ixi who had been standing around turned toward their direction. “Reuben, your name, is it?” he boomed. “I thought you went with your little brother!”
“Brave soul, isn’t he?” remarked Seth the Kacheek, who was a Babaa herder. “I mean, I wouldn’t be able to take on Ramtor at his age, or even now, for that matter.”
The Blumaroo grinned sheepishly, paid the Draik seller and went to find mushrooms. As he was choosing the ones he would take home, the talk went on and on.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Rohane became the next legend of Meridell.”
“I would be surprised if he didn’t!”
“Reuben, honestly, you should be proud of yourself, having a brother like him.”
Reuben nodded and waved. For some strange reason he couldn’t place at first, all these comments about Rohane seemed to seep into his being, tugging at something inside him. And to cap it all off, a Wocky and a Lenny passing by also saw the white Blumaroo in the marketplace and began talking to him as well.
“You’re a scaredy-Kadoatie, letting your little brother go out there because you’re too scared!”
“What kind of a big bro are you, anyway, leaving him out there to suffer in the paws of Ramtor?”
“My mother needed someone to stay and help her,” Reuben explained. “She was really sad after Father... well, you know.”
But the Lenny started to laugh, an odd yet sneering chuckle that spread throughout most of the guys in the marketplace. Even some of the shoppers stopped chatting to see what had been going on.
“Sir Reynold’s other son is still here?”
“Yeah, and his younger sibling is actually braver than he is! Isn’t that rich?”
Hastily the Blumaroo paid for the mushrooms as well, and strode home, desperately trying to shut himself off from the raucous crowd. If they weren’t playing up Rohane’s quest, they were teasing him for being scared, for being totally outdone by someone younger. As he stormed home, he began to realize that a swirling mix of various emotions was rising up inside his chest.
To be continued...