Another Hero's Journey: Part Five
“Is she awake yet?”
“I think she’s coming around. I passed by to deliver this late package from her cousin in Terror Mountain... and then there was no response, and then, I saw...”
“Calm down, Monty. You’ve seen enough.”
Everything around her was blurry; it was as if she was waking up from a strange, confusing, dreamless sleep. Melissa the white Blumaroo opened her eyes, and saw several faces looking down on her. She felt whatever was underneath her; she was lying on her sofa, the place where she had been before... before...
“Melissa,” said a female Aisha urgently, “Are you all right? Monty here says that he saw you on the floor through the window, and you weren’t moving an inch. He got us all here and apparently, you fainted, and you’ve got this note scrunched up in your fingers...”
“Reuben’s gone too!” screeched a younger red Aisha. She had the note, and tears were flowing freely down her cheeks. “Why? Why’d they all have to leave when they know there’s always the chance that they’ll never return alive? Why? WHY?”
“We can’t have another faint here, Li. Melissa’s still in a slight state of shock and we have to take care of her for a while,” said Tala softly.
“But Mother...” Li’s voice trailed off as she threw herself into her mother’s arms. “Reuben and Rohane – both gone, just like that! We have to get a search party and look for them! Who knows what’s happening?”
Tala shushed Liwanag and brushed away the tears that were making tracks on her face. “Not in this storm, we won’t,” she said. “Maybe later on, but who knows how far Reuben will be gone by then? And of course, Rohane would be farther down the road... I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s already on the other side of Meridell by now.”
Melissa barely listened to Li as her mother tried to keep her from breaking down, or to her red Aisha neighbor telling her to stay calm; that her sons were trained under the able eye and hand of Sir Reynold and they wouldn’t probably even be in any danger. She was too stunned to do anything, let alone speak, or scream, or even cry. First, Reynold had met his demise while trying to save the kingdom and Rohane had decided to avenge him by tracing his path. Now Reuben followed, and the white Blumaroo tried hard not to think of any of them now, even though they always popped into her mind whether or not she wanted them to, but it was hard, and it showed in how her entire body trembled, even though she was bundled up nice and warm in a blanket.
“I have to find them, Tala,” she managed to blurt out in a cracked voice, as if she was talking to herself.
“No, Mel,” said Tala. “Not you. You have to stay here and rest... no, the volunteers will handle it. They’ll do whatever they can.”
She sighed as she looked out the window, where the rain was coming down even stronger and harder than before. “I hope,” she added under her breath.
* * *
Even after three days of staying with the troupe in the cave, the storm still had not stopped. Although it let up in short intervals, it often started again, usually much stronger and with more fervor than before.
“I promised I would find him,” said Reuben adamantly, between bites of bread. “Not even your predictions can stop me, Miss Olivia. I’m still going.”
“But you instantly sought shelter when these rains came to pour their wrath upon this Meridellian forest,” the purple Lupe pointed out, her eyes fixed on the bonfire instead of on their new companion. “And you don’t plan on coming out until they pass. It’s been three days now.”
“That’s not the point,” he replied, passing the slab of cheese towards Devin.
“Stubborn and determined,” Andrea whispered, leaning over to Olivia, who nodded. Nobody heard or noticed them.
Devin sighed. “You don’t have to be a mystic to figure out that you’re on a dangerous mission, and you might not even come back alive. Ramtor’s got Meridell in his iron fist, and it’s going to take a lot more than one, maybe two, adventurers to pluck it out and set things straight again. He’s got more followers than you think – not just those who have decided to respect him for the sake of saving their own skins, but also bewitched minions we would rather not speak about.
“I suggest that you stay where you are and pray that your brother survives. We tried to tell him the same thing, but he wouldn’t buy it... courageous, confident, and foolish, he is.”
“Both of you,” added Olivia in a haunting whisper that seemed to make the hairs on the back of Reuben’s neck stand straight up.
The Kyrii ran a paw through her mane, which was held back by a blue headband studded with tiny glittering rhinestones arranged in spiraling patterns. “Honestly, my aunt is just looking out for you, Reuben. We all are. I guess if you don’t want to listen... that’s your choice, and we can’t do anything about your choice.”
The white Blumaroo made a noise of apprehension and then tried to change the subject. “So, what have you guys been doing in this cave, anyway?”
“We’re sort of nomads,” said Omar sagely. “My mother’s a nature seer, right? She can’t always be kept at home to do her job – she has to be able to have hands-on contact with the natural forces almost all the time, or else she weakens. We come with her whenever she has to stay out in the wilderness to work most of the time.” His smile faded. “That’s one reason why my father’s not with us – he doesn’t like roving around too much and prefers to stay put. He met my mother while on a mission from King Skarl.”
“He’s a knight?” asked Reuben interestedly.
“Sir Theodore the Taciturn is his name, and it fits him like a glove. He doesn’t always speak up, and he doesn’t have a particular battle cry, and he’s always used as a spy.”
“Spies have to rove around to collect information,” said Reuben skeptically.
“I meant that my father doesn’t like hopping from one place to another all the time, like we do,” said the brown Lupe, shooting the Blumaroo a reproachful glance before staring at his grapes.
“How’s he now?” asked Reuben.
“Gone,” was all Andrea said, frowning. “We got the news that Uncle Theo was discovered playing double agent around Ramtor’s court a week ago, passing on information to rebel groups around Meridell. Great man, he was... gave his life for his work, and according to the letter, he was not afraid, never afraid, even until his last.”
Devin nodded, bowing his head. He whispered to Reuben, “Omar was very close to his father, even though they were often very far in distance terms. They always wrote to each other, and it became practically a habit for Omar. He took his loss really badly... we couldn’t speak to him for a couple of days.”
“You don’t have to whisper, I can hear you,” growled Omar, narrowing his eyes at the green Kacheek and white Blumaroo.
“Well, you’re not the only one who lost a father,” said Reuben calmly. “And I lost mine when I was only a kid. At least you had more years with him than I had with my father.”
Omar’s expression softened slightly. “Really?”
“My father was the reason why Rohane left home in the first place. He wanted to avenge his demise. Sir Reynold – that’s our father – was going to invade the castle not too long after Ramtor took over it, but he was overpowered. Our mother was really devastated. I mean, we were too, but she was really, really shocked. Then... well, it’s a long story.”
“I... I didn’t know,” said the brown Lupe uncertainly. “I’m sorry...”
“I’m sorry too,” said Reuben. “I’m sorry I brought up the subject.”
“That’s all right,” said Devin, shrugging. “I’m used to that kind of talk... never met my real parents.”
“We adopted Devin, Reuben, when he was really little. And we took in Andrea as well when her parents – my aunt and uncle – were also accused of being spies against Ramtor. And... let’s just say we’d like to keep the story as short as that.”
Reuben nodded slowly, watching Andrea pick up her quill again and resume writing on the parchment perched on the slab of rock. She didn’t seem to have heard what they had been talking about her parents, or was just pretending to not have heard. He quickly averted his eyes when he thought she was staring back at him. “I’m... I’m sorry... I guess I thought I had it bad...” He bit his lip and fiddled with the corner of his shirt.
“Let us not dwell on things of the past, but focus on the present, as we head towards the future,” said Olivia gently, nodding at the worried Blumaroo and her stony-faced Lupe son. Devin was just idling, as though waiting for someone to speak, and Andrea continued scribbling away on the paper. “Now, where were we... ah, yes, your destiny, young one.”
“Who, me?” asked Reuben.
The brown Lupe rolled his eyes. “Who else would she mean?”
“Could’ve been you.”
“Umm... so, what’s on your mind, Miss Olivia?” asked Devin the green Kacheek. It was obvious that he was trying to keep a quarrel sparking between Reuben and Omar. “Were you saying something?”
“Grave danger,” said the purple Lupe tersely, tired of repeating it over and over again. “It is not yet too late to turn back. This doesn’t have to be your destiny, Reuben... to lose everything in the hands of Ramtor...”
Reuben raised an eyebrow. “How can you be sure that I’m never coming back once I march over to the castle?”
“How dare you question my mother like that?” retorted Omar, raising a fist, but Devin slowly grasped his friend’s arm and lowered it before the brown Lupe could strike the white Blumaroo.
“He is merely being the inquisitive, adventurous soul that he is,” replied Olivia softly, with an amused smile. “He wishes to know more. But I think he already knows, but doesn’t want to admit its truth. And I do not always need nature to tell me the answers,” she added, looking at Reuben’s bewildered stare.
To be continued...