Another Hero's Journey: Part Four
The crash of thunder jolted a snoozing white Blumaroo from the sofa she had been lying in for the past couple of hours. Shoving the Neopian Times away from her face and scrambling into a sitting position, she folded up the newspaper and placed it on the table, shaking her head at the storm that raged outside the windows. It reminded her vividly of that stormy day when her two sons gave her a fright by arriving late and soaking wet.
And speaking of which... where was Reuben?
Melissa called out his name, waiting for him to come out from any corner of the house. But there was nothing.
She called a second time, a little louder, and waited. Already she could feel her mother’s instincts twitching. Something seemed wrong.
The white Blumaroo stood up and walked over to her son’s bedroom, which was the nearest room, and began to search for him. Melissa grasped the doorknob, and found that it was unlocked. Opening the door all the way, it was easy to see that there was no sign of life in the room. But just as she was about to leave and go through another section of the house, an unruly gust of wind blew through the open window in Reuben’s room, blowing something from his bed and onto the floor.
Without a second thought, Melissa swooped down on it and unfolded the note.
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.
As she took in the message, her fear bubbled up even more ferociously inside. She could only utter one word, feeling her voice waver and her throat tighten.
For several moments, all she could do was stand there as though her legs were suddenly turned to stone, clutching the piece of paper as though it were her life and demise at the same time. No tears flowed, she kept her teeth gritted, and took no notice of the winds entering the open window and whipping her skirt around her ankles. The Blumaroo repeated the single syllable she had whispered a moment ago, louder and more pronounced.
It was as if the simple message was slowly tearing her up inside. She couldn’t take it no longer... first it was the end of Sir Reynold, then Rohane, her younger son, had convinced her and Reuben that he had to finish what his father started, and now... this.
Soon the tears began to emerge, misting her vision and the words on the paper, and everything went black.
* * *
While his mother was slowly digesting the fact that he was gone, the male white Blumaroo jumped up from where he was sitting inside a dank cave he thought was empty, drawing two daggers from his belt. He thought he had seen all there was to the cave – and apparently, whoever had been in it before him was probably all the way inside, where he couldn’t see unless he really poked his head in.
“Who goes there?” Reuben demanded.
“We should probably ask you the same question,” repeated the same voice, resonating all around the cave as if it came from a mysterious, powerful figure.
“I asked it first!” shouted the Blumaroo. “If you want to fight, come out here!”
Lightning flashed outside after he had said this, and a long, hulking shadow danced upon a cave wall, one of its upper limbs strangely pointed and elongated.
Reuben knew a sword when he saw one. He clutched his daggers even more tightly, stepping forward to meet the shadow. The wind rushed inside again, making him shiver slightly, now that he had removed his cloak to dry.
He was much deeper into the cave now, and before he knew it, he saw a glint of steel in front of his nose. The white Blumaroo followed the blade with his opal-like eyes and connected it to a roughly-hewn copper hilt with a rusty pommel. The weapon was clutched by a pair of gloved paws attached to arms covered by long sleeves that ended in a simple reddish-brown shirt, worn by a hardened brown Lupe with piercing hazel eyes that glanced down on the newcomer. He was also wearing navy trousers and muddy boots, and four silver hoops in his left ear. From the Lupe’s stance, Reuben knew that this was no rookie fighter, not one to mess with.
The Lupe lurched forward, swinging the sword towards Reuben. Having been trained by his father in his younger years, the Blumaroo dodged to the side and parried the blow with one of his daggers. Reuben then moved his other dagger in a semi-circle and tried to knock his opponent’s weapon out of his grip, but the Lupe caught on his strategy and blocked in time. As he wrenched his sword away and began moving it in quick chopping motions, it was Reuben’s turn to defend. Crossing his daggers in front of his chest like a shield, the white Blumaroo grunted as he felt the sword meet his own blades.
Taking a deep breath and taking a risk, Reuben lunged to his left, uncrossing his knives, narrowly missing the Lupe’s next blow and colliding against the cave wall. It felt as though his shoulder had suddenly burst into flames, but he ignored the pain and continued to fight. With a loud yell, he leapt forward and heard the crashing of his daggers with his opponent’s sword, which echoed throughout the cave and mingled with the noise of the storm outside. For several tense seconds they locked blades, glaring at each other.
“Omar, what are you doing?” Something else echoed throughout the cave, a voice that belonged to another party. Either there were more refugees in the cave, or the Lupe knew a lot of ventriloquism.
“There’s an intruder, Devin!” replied the Lupe, not keeping his eyes off Reuben. “Some pipsqueak Blumaroo who thinks he’s got the guts to barge in on our camp.” He kicked Reuben in the stomach with his foot, sending him crashing against the wall again. “But don’t worry. I’ve got him under control.” The Lupe pointed his sword at the white Blumaroo’s throat as another figure emerged from the shadows.
Reuben diverted his gaze toward Omar’s companion. This one was a green Kacheek, wearing a worn beige vest and gray trousers held up by a muddy-colored belt with a silver buckle. He was also armed with knives, albeit smaller and more numerous.
“What are you waiting for?” said Devin imperiously. “Finish him off! There is no room in our cave for assassins and bandits.”
“Save your breath,” said Reuben, eyeing Omar’s sword. “I’m neither. I come from the village of Trestin to find my little brother who thinks he’s big enough to take on Ramtor alone.”
This line seemed to strike a chord within the Kacheek.
“Lemme guess,” he said, stroking his chin. “Small-sized Blumaroo, yellow, unlike you, and he’s got a sword, unlike you... We passed him by some time ago, invited him to our campfire, but he declined, saying that he had something important to do.” Devin looked at the white Blumaroo from head to foot. “Come to think of it, you two look quite alike. We never got his name though. But what’s yours?”
“I’m Reuben, and Rohane’s my brother. Can you get that stupid blade away from me now?”
Omar put his sword back, but he still looked at the Blumaroo as though he could never be trusted in a million years.
“And besides, I’m only staying in here till the rain lets up and I can get out of here,” added Reuben, reading the Lupe’s expression.
Devin nodded, leaning against the cave wall. “Sure, we don’t mind. And since we’ll be sharing this cave, we may as well introduce ourselves. I’m Devin, and this is my best friend Omar,” he replied. “But now that you’re hanging around with us for a while, I guess I should tell you something I was never able to tell your brother. Follow us.”
The two companions led the white Blumaroo deeper into the cave, until it opened into a large room dotted with stalactites and stalagmites, big boulders and small stones, and there were two others seated at the center, which was like a small crater and as they looked up to see the Lupe and the Kacheek with an unexpected visitor, Reuben could see that they were both female.
“Omar’s mother, Miss Olivia,” said Devin, gesturing to the aged purple Lupe. She was clad in a long blue robe that shimmered with golden crescent moons, silver stars, and strange sapphire swirls. Her eyes and expression were very much like those of her son, and she had large yellow suns dangling from her ears. As she raised her paw, the long sleeve of her robe fell back to reveal many gold bangles, and crimson sparks flew onto a pile of dry sticks, and they caught fire instantly.
A fragile-looking red Kyrii sat beside her, writing on a small piece of parchment propped up onto a flat rock. She wore a single aquamarine gemstone in her left ear and another one was strung onto a fine silver chain on her neck, both of them the same color as her eyes. A turquoise cloak partly covered her red blouse and pink skirt, and she had a beaded anklet on her right foot, which matched the two on her left wrist. “And that’s Omar’s cousin, Andrea. Miss Olivia, Andrea, Reuben will be staying with us while the storm’s a-raging.”
“Pleased to meet you,” said Olivia in a voice that sounded like the gentle tinkling of chimes and the booming authority of a brass bell at the same time. “Please, do come and share our fire, even for a while. It looks like the rain may not let up sooner than I thought.”
Andrea said nothing, but nodded and smiled her welcome.
“Miss Olivia is a seer, a diviner,” said Devin. “But unlike most seers, who read crystal balls, she can read nature itself – the winds, the water, you get the picture. Okay, before I forget, I’ll tell you now what I should’ve told your brave but somewhat unfortunate sibling.”
“I’ll do it,” said the purple Lupe. “You are treading dangerous ground, Reuben, is that it? You seek your brother, who bypassed us once and never passed us again. Both of you are in grave danger... I see great obstacles in your futures, as the forest has revealed to me when we camped outside then. Perhaps it would be better for you to pursue a different path, a different destiny, young Reuben.”
To be continued...