Another Hero's Journey: Part Eight
Reuben clutched the stone on his chest and looked at Andrea, whose eyes were shining as she put aside the papers she had been writing on. She had been quiet for most of the time during his stay, except when she had to say something important. Now the red Kyrii clasped paws with the white Blumaroo, gazing at him sadly.
No wonder her eyes were shining. He saw a tear slowly drip from her left eye, but she brushed it away and had a “you-saw-nothing” look on her face.
“You remind me so much of my little brother,” she said. “Ruben was inquisitive, smart, sometimes a little too smart for his own good... ”
Omar and Devin snickered, and didn’t stop even when Reuben glared at them. But when Andrea gave them a glowering look, the brown Lupe and the green Kacheek clammed up instantly.
“Ruben was always looking out for me, even though I was the older sibling. Maybe it was because I was a girl. But anyway, he got lost because he wanted to lead me home. He believed he knew the path and could help me. Unfortunately, we lost sight of each other eventually, and when my parents found me and decided to search for Ruben next, they got nothing. It took a while for them to finally accept that... well, he’s gone, and it would be next to impossible to find him now.
“You’re so much like him, Reuben,” the Kyrii repeated. “For your brother’s sake, don’t get yourself lost or killed out there, okay?”
She hugged him around the shoulders. The white Blumaroo was taken aback at first and thought of breaking away, but he relaxed and patted her back.
“I’m going to be fine, Andrea,” he assured her. “The rain stopped; it’s a good sign. But I’ll never forget any of you, never. Not you, not Devin, or Omar, or Miss Olivia...” The two of them separated, and Reuben looked around at everyone else.
Olivia beamed at him despite her constant doubts. She squeezed his shoulder, her bangles and bracelets jingling.
“You’ve chosen your path; it is up to you to shape it the way you’ll be taking it. We can’t do anything except offer a little bit of advice every now and then. Although I have to admire your risk-taking attitude.”
“Same here,” said Devin. “Good luck.”
“As much as we’d like to help, we know this is your own battle, and it’s best we keep out of it. Unless of course, you have second thoughts,” said Omar.
The white Blumaroo winked. “No thanks; this is my own thing, and I want to do it on my own. But thanks for the offer.”
“It’s been nice having a guy with a smart mouth like yours around,” said the brown Lupe, smirking. “Even though we had to feed you and make room in the cave for you and put up with you yelling at us, it’s been a real hoot.”
“Omar still doesn’t know how to make a good compliment,” said Devin, putting an arm around Reuben.
“Will I see you guys again? I have to admit, I’ll miss all of you,” said the Blumaroo. “Call me a mushy, softie guy, but I will.”
Olivia frowned, but didn’t look as depressed as Andrea. “Well... only time can tell when we’ll be moving on too, and I’m afraid I do not know if we will cross each other’s paths again. Maybe never, but we really never know. If your destiny decides to pass by us again, then so be it. Otherwise... this is goodbye.”
Reuben looked at everyone, memorizing their faces and filing them away in his memory. When he got to the red Kyrii she was scribbling away again on a bunch of papers propped up on a flat rock.
“Before I go,” he said hesitantly, “Andrea, you’ve been writing in those papers the entire time I was with you. If it’s not too much to ask... can I ask what’s in them? I can keep secrets.”
She smiled, slightly more cheerful than the last smile. “What I write is not exactly a secret, anyway,” said the Kyrii, organizing her work. “You see, I’m a writer. Everything I experience in my life gives me lots of inspiration to write and get away from reality for once.”
Andrea shot a very reproachful glance at Omar and Devin, who snickered, but calmed down when she continued.
“I discovered that I could let out all my feelings through the pen and paper the day I lost Ruben. That night, I composed a story about him and me having adventures in a forest, and I poured everything into it. I still have it with me, along with other poems and stories, and even a few essays on what I see and hear. When you were around, I was writing a ballad about you and your brother Rohane, Reuben. Here.”
Digging through her work, she unearthed a slightly crumpled sheet, folded it into four parts, and handed it to the white Blumaroo, who pocketed it.
“When you’re in trouble, write. I’m telling you, Reuben, whether it’s merely a journal entry – yes, I do keep my own journal – or a novel, writing is a good way to let out how you feel, without yelling or pounding walls. Hopefully when you find Rohane, you’ll show him what I wrote.”
“Of course I will,” said Reuben, grinning widely, “Thank you, Andrea. Thank you... everyone. It’s too much. I don’t deserve it.”
“Of course you do,” said Omar, pressing a small, flat knife into the Blumaroo’s paws. “Oh, and after seeing those daggers of yours, I figured you might need something smaller.” Devin peeked into the provisions and managed to spare a small loaf of bread, a slab of white cheese, and an apple, which he thrust towards their guest.
Olivia smiled, looking very much like a faerie about to give a blessing. “May the forces of nature guide you,” she said. “I have nothing material to offer, so I offer only my best wishes. Four days... only four days, but they were a very interesting four days.”
He stood up, gathering his things and putting on his cloak. Surveying the cave and the kind troupe that had taken him in, Reuben saluted. Andrea waved, smiling sadly. Olivia had her arm around the Kyrii, and Devin and Omar saluted back. Reuben knew that he had to continue now, and so he turned away slowly and began to walk outside.
The sky was still quite cloudy, but these weren’t rain clouds. They were huge, puffy and white. Some had hints of gray, but the Blumaroo tried not to think about it. He unclasped his cloak, saw the aquamarine shining up at him and felt a little twinge of guilt at taking Andrea’s precious pendant and reminding her of something that made her sad. A cool wisp of wind blew into his ears as he continued his journey.
Taking out his map, Reuben checked to see if he was taking the wrong route. Shaking his head as he traced the path he was on, he cursed under his breath and changed direction, glancing back at the cave the way he had one last fleeting look at his house when he first left.
“Rohane’s probably further along his quest than I am in my quest to find him,” muttered the white Blumaroo irritably, as he sidestepped a few sharp stones and a thorny bush.
He walked along for what felt like an eternity, stopping only to check the map or have a bite to eat. The cave was too far to see now, and he found himself standing before a dense combination of hills and forest. A bit of sunlight struggled through the clouds, literally shedding some light on his situation.
The country seemed unnervingly quiet, and Reuben didn’t like it one bit. Why hadn’t anything tried to attack him today?
He went on, shrugging. Maybe it was the fact that all his knives, though sheathed, showed up nicely on his belt. If this was how everything was, then Rohane wouldn’t have had any trouble trekking to another side of Meridell.
Suddenly, the Blumaroo felt the ground under him shake slightly with the thunder of hooves. Typical, he thought. Just when I’m letting my guard down. He followed the source of the noise, and turned around to see a group mounted on Unis galloping the opposite way, kicking up dust clouds.
“Get out of the way, midget!” bellowed a low voice that rumbled like the Unis’ hooves. “Or else we’ll flatten you!”
Reuben gasped, and threw himself aside. His back crashed against a tree trunk, and he saw the travelers more closely.
All of them had kerchiefs over their mouths, and wore billowing black cloaks over their clothes. There were many of them – including a couple of Kougras, one Gelert, and one Kyrii, but it was hard to tell what the others were, or what colors they were under their cloaks. Each Uni bore one rider, and every last one had black masks over their faces so that only their eyes and horns showed, and they looked dressed for battle. The Gelert took his eyes off the road to glare at the Blumaroo before following his comrades, probably the one who had told Reuben to get out of the way. Raucous laughter and snide remarks floated in their wake.
Holding his head high, Reuben rolled his eyes and went on his way. Out of curiosity, he glanced back at the travelers, who looked more like bandits or thieves than anything else.
He backtracked a bit and followed them, making sure he wasn’t seen or heard, one paw on his knives just in case they tried anything funny. The white Blumaroo ducked behind a tree, and saw the large speck in the distance that was the group. Reuben was about to turn around and catch up on his quest, when he saw something else and bit his lip to keep from swearing out loud.
They were on the road bound for Trestin.
Did he dare check what kind of business they had? After all, they looked extremely suspicious. But did he dare get off his path for a second time?
Reuben glanced at the hills and trees waiting for him to follow Rohane again. Then the white Blumaroo looked at the group. Every minute, they drew closer to Trestin, and made Reuben even more nervous.
He made his decision.
Reuben turned and fled towards Trestin, as fast as his legs could carry him, trying to avoid tripping on any random obstacles like logs and stones. He passed a cave and wondered if Omar and company were inside or if that was a different cave, but didn’t have enough time to delve deeper into the subject as he fled.
The village loomed before him, and so far, nobody saw him.
Or so he thought.
To be continued...