Another Hero's Journey: Part Ten
Dark Hope winced as he heard screams outside his window. He winced again as a couple of stones struck his window – or in this case, the window of the guest room Jovan had loaned him, but neither of them had any messages attached to them, and neither did the throwers linger to see if he would open the window for them. And even though they made unnerving ringing sounds as they bounced off the glass, they left mere scratches instead of shattering the pane instantly. Dark had to admire the workmanship that went into the window.
Jovan entered the shadow Shoyru’s room, bearing a tray of steaming tea and some biscuits.
“Bandits,” said the blue Ixi anxiously. “I bolted our doors and shut all our windows, and made sure my daughter got in quickly. Hopefully they’ll pass our house; it’s old and has been passed down for generations, and I don’t have much to brag about.”
“You never know,” said Dark darkly, taking the tray graciously and placing it on the bedside table, moving the lamp to make room. “And thank you. Anyway, if they try to break in here, I’ll be ready. I feel better, thanks to you and Joan. I’ve been trained not only in espionage, but also in combat, weapon-aided and otherwise.”
“I know that. They won’t break in,” Jovan assured him confidently. “They can’t,” the Ixi hoped under his breath, thinking fervently of Dark, the spy, and Joan, Jovan’s daughter.
The Shoyru raised a biscuit to his lips and paused, looking at Jovan. “Hold on a second,” he said. “Thwack me for nitpicking, but why is everyone running away like that? Shouldn’t they be teaming up to drive the bandits away? I mean, one big village against a group of bandits... seriously, Jovan, what is up with them?”
“Trestin is just not used to seeing attacks like these, since we’re so isolated from the rest of Meridell,” said the blue Ixi, leaning against the wall.
Dark stood up and put the biscuit back on the plate. “That’s no reason for them to be so... so... I can’t even think of words to describe how they’re dealing with the situation. Honestly, what am I doing here, in good fighting shape? I am honor-bound to repay the house – and the village – that has taken me in, despite the dangers of harboring a spy. I am also honor-bound to protect the house that has sheltered me, and the hands that have made sure I lived to bring my message.”
Jovan watched as his guest drew several knives from inside the bedside table’s drawer and strapped them on a belt.
“Now today I repay my debt,” said Dark defiantly, strolling past the Ixi and out through the door. Jovan heard the beating of the shadow Shoyru’s wings as the spy flew down the stairs, and the opening and closing of their front door. Jovan thundered down after Dark and quickly locked it again.
His eyes caught sight of a crossbow hanging just beside his sofa.
* * *
Liwanag gasped as she felt the yellow Kougra relinquish her grip on the former’s braided hair, and watched in horror and awe as the Kougra and her white Kyrii companion were suddenly engulfed by huge, thick tendrils glowing a proud blue-green hue, that burst out from the ground. It was magic, the red Aisha knew, as she reached out and retrieved her necklace, which the Kyrii had dropped when he was seized into the air. A Pawkeet screeched and flew in circles overhead, trying to avoid getting hit by the flailing branches.
“What’s going on?” the Kyrii bellowed as he thrashed in the branch’s grip. His cold brown gaze bore into Li’s eyes. “Did you do this?”
“I swear I didn’t!” she said, hurriedly reattaching her necklace.
The branches suddenly retreated back into the ground, and the Kougra and the Kyrii plopped back onto the ground, a little dazed and quite fearful, especially the Kyrii.
The two of them launched themselves on Olivia, but the purple Lupe was too quick. She said one arcane word and threw up a shimmering magenta wall. As the two mercenaries struck it, a sound like the clanging of a gong was heard, and they fell over again, rubbing their heads and muttering.
A Uni charged from behind, attempting to strike Olivia with his horn. But she pointed her finger at him, and in a split second he was entangled in a mess of wriggling vines. She did the same for the Kougra and the Kyrii, and they were instantly immobilized.
“I owe you,” said Li gratefully as the Lupe helped the Aisha to her feet. “Who are you?”
“You can ask Reuben later,” said Olivia with a mysterious smile, running off to another part of the battle. “In the meantime, either you stay out of the way, or help us get rid of them. Although it would be really nice if you chose the latter.”
The red Aisha was dumbstruck as she stared after the purple Lupe, who was raising several huge vines out of the ground as she ran. But she was even more petrified by the sight of a crossbow bolt whizzing straight for her. Li screamed, and before she could try to move, something shoved her aside, and the arrow ended its flight as it scraped the grass.
“I owe you too – Reuben?!”
“I’ll explain later. Stay out of trouble,” said the white Blumaroo. He had two knives, and he braced himself as a broadsword crashed with one of them.
“Be careful!” she gasped, running towards her house, several steps down the road she was pushed onto. “Reuben, if you get yourself killed before your mother finds you...”
“I won’t!” Reuben called back, ducking as the sword tore at his shoulder, ripping his shirt.
Li shrieked again, and grabbed a jagged rock from the ground. With all her might, she hurled it all the way towards the Blumaroo’s attacker. He went down. Reuben wrenched the sword from his grip and waved his thanks to the red Aisha, who looked even more stupefied than before, as she pondered what she had just done.
The white Blumaroo ran towards the marketplace, where the fighting was at its hardest. Elbowing a blue Elephante in black who had been picking on Devin, Reuben inserted himself into the crowd of panicking sellers and buyers, and the bandits ambushing as many of them as possible. Several had gotten away, but the bandits had decided to enclose the rest in a semi-circle, one or two companions breaking away to try their luck with the escapees.
A small yellow Cybunny in a green dress clutched a crudely-sewn faerie doll to her chest and wailed as loudly as she could, tears streaming down her face. A shadow Gelert had her wrist in his grasp, and was reaching out for the three gold hoops on her ears.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, stealing from the little innocent ones now, are we?”
Omar reached the Cybunny and the Gelert before Reuben could. The larger brown Lupe grabbed the rogue by the waist and threw him aside like a sack of potatoes. Omar raised his sword in time as the Gelert unveiled a dagger.
“The kid, Reuben, the kid!” shouted Omar.
The white Blumaroo didn’t have to be told twice. He clutched the girl’s shoulder and tugged. The Cybunny got the message and followed him.
“Wait... where’s Andrea?” asked Reuben.
Omar gasped as he locked blades with the Gelert. “Trying to give the market fellows a pep talk,” the Lupe shouted. “Reuben, we’re outnumbered and we’re in need of help, and we’ve got to make them cooperate. Reuben? Reuben?”
But he wasn’t looking at Omar as he absently led the yellow Cybunny, who was hanging on for life on his arm and stashing her doll into his pocket, as far away from the bandits as possible. Thankfully none of them saw the white Blumaroo inching away from the fight and looking at several scattered groups of villagers running for the mountainous forest just behind their village, some of them bringing along their belongings.
Trestin had to fight. But many of its inhabitants were fleeing for the hills – actually, the mountains.
“I have to get everyone else to come back and help us with this mess,” mouthed Reuben to Omar. The brown Lupe nodded once, taking his eyes off his opponent for a split-second, and gave his comrade a look that told the Blumaroo to run and let the rest of them take care of everything.
“Where will you take me, mister?” asked the Cybunny shyly. “And thanks for saving my life.” She spoke with a slight lisp. “What’s your name?”
“Come with me for a while,” he said. “We have to drive these crazed demons from Trestin, and we can’t do it if the majority chooses to flee and leave everything behind for the bandits to feast on. It’s just not right. Oh, and you can call me Reuben.”
“I’m Cleo,” she said, and suddenly gripped the white Blumaroo’s arm tighter as they saw a shadow Shoyru following them. “Who’s that?”
Wrenching himself from Cleo, Reuben drew two knives with a swift movement that momentarily reduced the blades to glistening silver blurs in front of him and made his Cybunny charge gasp in awe and respectful fear.
“I’m on your side!” said the Shoyru, sheathing his own knife and thrusting out his empty palms for both of them to see. He ushered them behind a house quickly as the fighting went on, although Reuben felt a little guilty about leaving his friends behind.
“I can’t tell you my real name, because spies don’t just march up and introduce themselves to random guys. You can refer to me as Dark Hope, or just Dark. I heard you say you were Reuben, and I’ve got a message from your brother Rohane.”
The white Blumaroo could have been knocked over with a feather.
“Listen up, we’re wasting time just standing around here! We have to gather up the other villagers, because that group’s definitely outnumbered by the bandits. And wait a second – I heard from Tala and Jovan you went missing for a while.”
“If we get as much of Trestin as we can to drive away the bandits, we’ll have a chance to hear that story and get my brother’s message!” said Reuben. “I saw them headed for the mountains. Let’s go!”
To be continued...