Another Hero's Journey: Part Three
Please don’t look for me. I’ve gone to follow my brother. I’ll be back, I promise, hopefully with Rohane. Don’t worry; I know what I’m doing.
The note now sat on the bed, underneath the pillow and next to the bag. The white Blumaroo himself was taking out a long brown cloak and clipping three daggers to his belt. He put on his sturdiest pair of boots and did the copper-colored clasp on his cloak. Reuben wanted to tell his mother face-to-face where he was going and why, but he was afraid that she would try to keep him at home. Plus, he wasn’t about to let the villagers call him “mama’s boy” in addition to being a coward.
He decided that the best way out was through the back door, which opened out to a grassy plain that led to the mountainous forest that kept Trestin, their village, partly hidden from the rest of Meridell.
And at least he had left a message.
Trying to make as little noise as possible, the white Blumaroo gently opened his door and peeked through the crack. His mother was slumped in the threadbare sofa, taking a nap with the latest issue of the Neopian Times over her face. Smiling slightly at her rather comical appearance and the strange rustling of the paper as she snored lightly, Reuben opened the door all the way. It looked as though she wouldn’t be getting up for a while.
He grabbed his bag, made sure the note was easy to see, and dragged himself quietly out of his room, shutting it gently behind him. Praying that his boots didn’t make squeaking noises – or any kind of noises for that matter – he tiptoed across the floor, passing his sleeping mother. There was a rather tense moment when the Times half-slid off her face, making the sight even more comical, and Reuben froze, instantly forming what he thought was a good excuse in his head in case the older Blumaroo suddenly woke up.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to use it, as Melissa didn’t wake up. After a few seconds of staring at her, looking for any signs that she was stirring, Reuben continued, taking care not to accidentally bump into something. It took forever and a day, but at last he was waiting beside the back door.
The young white Blumaroo stretched out a paw and slowly opened it, praying that the door wouldn’t creak open.
Once again, he froze in place and squinted at his mother, who merely turned over on the sofa. The Neopian Times rustled and slid to the floor, but Melissa barely moved herself after that. Several more tense moments passed until Reuben finally slipped through and stepped into the outdoors, taking in the midday sun. Much to his relief, there wasn’t anyone else around to see him, except a Symol that dived into its hole after catching a glimpse of the Blumaroo who gently closed the door behind him and peeked through the window for a last look at his still-sleeping mother.
That was it... he was now out. All that was left to do was leave the village and try to find out where his brother went. Obviously, he would be headed for Meridell Castle, but the questions were, how would he go there, and would he already be there?
He dug into his bag and fished out a roughly-drawn map of Meridell, which the white Blumaroo had copied out of a Neopian atlas before writing his mother a note. Tracing a path around the mountains that partly shielded Trestin from the rest of the kingdom, Reuben glanced out into the open, and saw the hills that fronted the mountain range.
“Here I go,” he muttered to himself, slinging his bag over his shoulder and clutching the map in his left paw. “Okay, Rohane, big bro’s a-coming to help you... and his reputation.”
With one last look at his house, Reuben sighed. He didn’t know if he really was doing the right thing, going after his younger sibling not only for the sake of lending a hand in this whole save-Meridell-from-Ramtor business, but mostly for the sake of proving himself, and leaving their mother behind... any minute now, she would wake up and look for her older son... but she wouldn’t find him, and all she will find is a note tucked underneath his pillow...
The white Blumaroo turned away and walked on after pulling down the hood of his cloak, just in case someone found him and began asking questions he wouldn’t be able to answer.
The sooner I start this, the sooner I can finish it and get back home, he thought to himself.
A warm breeze was blowing past him, and he was feeling a little stuffy underneath the cloak. The vast hills and grassy fields were coming into view as he drew farther away from civilization. A few more Symols scampered past him to find new places to burrow in.
He decided to quicken his pace. The mountains seemed a lot bigger than they had been from inside his bedroom window now. Reuben kept on going, checking the map to make sure he didn’t run into any dangerous paths, and he caught a short glimpse of his home, which was gradually shrinking into the distance, along with the other bits of the village. There was no turning back now, it seemed...
He plodded on, his nose barely an inch away from the map, so engrossed with his trek that it took a few blasts of chilly wind to alert him to his surroundings and the distant flash of lightning overhead.
The white Blumaroo gritted his teeth and cursed the weather under his breath as he looked up to see large gray clouds moving in with the boom of thunder. The wisps of warm air suddenly became gusts of cold that whipped his cloak around him. He glanced back down on his map and saw a drop of water fall onto his crude sketch of Meridell Castle.
In seconds, Reuben felt the steady pitter-patter of more raindrops on his hooded head as the storm got into full force. He stuffed the map into the inner pocket of his cloak before it got totally soaked and unreadable as the winds roared, as if hoping to flip the unwary adventurer over on his back and send that bit of paper flying. It was getting harder to walk against the storm, and overhead, a lightning bolt struck a tree branch and sent it hurtling towards him.
Reuben dived and rolled away from the branch as it landed with a sickening crash at the exact same spot he had been a second earlier, part of it burnt and smoking. The Blumaroo got up again, not minding the mud and grass on his cloak and boots. Half of him wanted to stop and find a place to rest and wait till the rain stopped, but the other half of him wanted to keep going.
There was another flash of lightning, and it hit another tree, the one Reuben was standing underneath. He gasped and jumped aside, tripping on a stone and tottering as he fought to regain his balance. The ferocious winds continued to batter him, which made it even more difficult.
At last he settled on a decision. He couldn’t continue in this storm, and it was probably getting stronger. As if it couldn’t get any stronger awhile ago, grumbled the white Blumaroo as he began searching for a place to stay. From the corner of his eye, he could see the mountains, looking down on him as though taunting his feverish attempts to keep moving. But he saw a gaping hole in one of the smaller mountains, and he didn’t have to climb up any of the fronting hills to get to it, which was a small mercy.
Reuben sprinted for it, running low and feeling the gales blow raindrops into his face. He wove between two hills, only looking at the cave he was headed for. He could rest till the storm slowed, or stopped completely, and he could eat and check the map again...
He ducked into his sanctuary, and the drops ceased beating on him. A few gusts of wind blew into the cave, but it wasn’t as bad as being exposed outside. The Blumaroo now realized just how wet and muddy he was, but he didn’t take much notice of it. All he wanted was a little rest in someplace dry.
Looking around, he could see that the cave was indeed dry, but not quite warm. He glanced inside, wondering how far it went and whether it was a good idea to stay, but the fact that there were no other living things in sight was a lucky sign. Other than being littered with sticks, stones and a bit of dust, the cave floor wasn’t the least bit suspicious.
The white Blumaroo sighed and sat down. He stripped his dripping cloak and set it on top of a large rock behind him to dry, after which he reached out for a few of the larger sticks and two stones. Reuben’s dark eyes shifted for a moment to the storm outside as he began trying to light a fire.
But as sparks began to jump from the rubbed stones, a wave of cold wind rushed into the cave and instantly extinguished the fire before it even ignited. Reuben was about to yell something unpleasant when he heard an echoing voice that sounded like it came from deep, deep inside.
“Who are you and what are you doing in here?”
To be continued...