Another Hero's Journey: Dreams - Part One
AUTHOR'S NOTE: It would help a lot if you read my series, Another Hero's Journey (issues 274-285) before reading this story, so you may be able to understand some important points and references.
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Addressed to: Master Reuben, 241 Cobble Path, Village of Trestin, Venerable Kingdom of Meridell
From: His Majesty King Skarl, 285th monarch of Meridell, through Duke Justin Larkian, chief castle scribe and personal recorder of his Majesty, twenty-eighth day of the Month of Eating
First of all, we would like to thank your brother Rohane and his comrade Mipsy for freeing us all from Ramtor’s clutches. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be enjoying such freedom of speech, or would still be using Symols to send messages and going through all the trouble of secret codes.
Next, word has spread about your valiant actions in Trestin which have led to its triumph over a large group of bandits, whom we believe are serving, or have served, the village in repayment for all the disorder they have caused in the past, whether to your domain or to someone else’s. We commend you for your bravery, wit and heart. True courage is measured not by how you stand up to your enemies, but how you stand up to the ones close to you.
We, the Royal Court of Meridell and the Meridellian Army, would like to invite you to the newly-reclaimed Meridell Castle on the thirty-first day of the Month of Eating, to formally be recognized as a hero of the kingdom on the first day of Hunting.
You will be presented accordingly before the king and his advisors and entourage.
Prescribed attire during the ceremony is formal. Your family and friends will be invited as well. There will be a free buffet after the ceremonies. Send a reply to confirm your coming. If, by some strange reason, you cannot make it, send someone to accept the honors in your place and mark them accordingly so we don’t mistake them for deadly assassins or remaining supporters of Ramtor.
Long live Meridell!
The white Blumaroo shrugged, folding the letter again and stowing it back into its envelope – a parchment envelope that was almost immaculate except for a large, blobby wax seal of the Meridell emblem exploding in shades of red, blue and gold and his name and address on the back. He glanced up at his mother from where he was seated at the dining table.
The letter had come while he was out finding a branch to turn into a bow. Reuben had wanted a new one, after his good friend Devin and neighbor Jovan helped him remember the basics of archery the Blumaroo had taken up with his father, plus a few new advanced moves, but couldn’t bear to spend so much money buying a bow. So instead he had trekked into the forests surrounding their village to find a good-sized branch to shape into the weapon he wanted. He would worry about the bowstring, arrows and a quiver later.
When he had come back, Melissa was waving a letter over her head and smiling from ear to ear, which was saying something, as she was a white Blumaroo as well. According to her, a messenger from King Skarl had arrived, complete with a trumpeting entourage of ten footmen blasting away the song, “The Brave Knight” while every villager around dropped whatever they had been doing to see what was going on.
“I’m so proud of you,” was all Melissa could say to her son, watching him set the envelope aside. “If only your father and brother were here...”
Reuben glanced at his half-finished bow on the table and his whittling knife. “Yeah,” he answered, crossing his arms and frowning thoughtfully. His father was long dead, but his younger sibling was... well, frankly, neither Reuben nor Melissa knew Rohane’s whereabouts as of that moment. They had not received any letters from him since the last one announcing their triumph over Ramtor.
Reuben was hoping that the king or his faithful scribe could stick something in about his brother, but his hopes were dashed as he read that last word.
Was he still in Meridell, even, with that friend of his – what’s-her-name, oh, Mipsy – and would he still come back? Or... did he even live to revel in his victory and the freedom of the land they called home?
“Worried about Rohane, aren’t you? Thoughtful big brother, aren’t you?”
“I guess you could say that,” said Reuben, plunking his brown boots on the table and smoothing out his blue shirt and cream vest. “I mean, there was nothing in the letter about him besides a little mention of gratitude. Mother, do you think I will find out when I... you know, go to the castle myself? I guess since I’m not doing much on the thirty-first day of Eating... or on the first of Hunting... or anytime now...” He absently reached out again for his knife and continued whittling, gathering up the shavings into a neat pile on the table. “And I promise I’ll clean up afterward.”
Melissa smiled weakly. “I’m worried too,” she said. “Tell me if they know anything about Rohane or his little friend when you get there, okay?”
“Don’t be silly,” replied the younger Blumaroo, setting aside his bow, which only needed a few more scrapes here and there. “You’re going to come with me. I can’t leave you here by yourself, Mother. And if it’s about the house, we can always ask Tala and Li to watch it for us.”
“Someone mention me?”
Reuben and Melissa jumped, the former accidentally driving his blade into the wooden table instead of through a stray splinter on the bow and jumping up from where he had been lounging about at the table. They looked at the window near the kitchen and saw the face of a smiling red Aisha. She held up a basket of carrots and radishes.
“I heard my name,” the Aisha commented, gesturing with her free paw towards the female white Blumaroo to get the basket. “And – is that the crest of the Meridellian Crown I see? Has Rohane come home yet?”
“Yes, and no,” answered Melissa, walking over to Tala. “Reuben got a letter from the king saying that he’ll formally be recognized, and be the living proof of those rumors about the bandit attack on our village some time ago which actually aren’t rumors but are often made out to be. Besides, Ramtor definitely had better things to do than send Reuben a nice little note telling him to haul himself over to the other side of Meridell. And please, won’t you drop by for a while?”
“I’d love to, but the marketplace calls. My new healing elixir, the Lemon-Lime Almost-All-Cure, is selling too fast for me to count how many lemons and limes I’ve already used in making it. Anyway, my congratulations to you, Reuben, and is that a bow? I know a good friend who makes –”
Reuben gave a tug, and nearly toppled from his chair as the knife finally relinquished its grip on the wooden table. “No thanks, I’d rather do it myself. And thanks. I mean, for the congratulations bit.”
The Aisha smiled. “I have to admit, that’s some fine workmanship. Simple, but strong, I can see.”
“I still haven’t carved my initials into them,” he admitted, smoothing out a few sides with the knife and squinting at the bow so closely that his nose nearly touched it. “And I still don’t know how to design it. I mean, anyone can make a bow like this. Plus, there’s no grip yet...”
“You’re busy these days,” Tala remarked, nodding. “So, when will you be headed off to the other side of the mountains?”
Before the bow-whittling Blumaroo could answer, his mother said, “Tomorrow, it seems. I’ll stay home –”
“For the last time, Mother, you’re coming too,” he interrupted her.
“No,” said Melissa, shaking her head and shifting the basket to another arm. “I promised to help Tala in the market, and I’ll hang around in case Rohane heads straight home and fill him in about whatever’s happened while he was gone.”
Her second reason made some sense. Still, Tala, who had already walked away to do her work, and Li and the other villagers could do the filling in while Reuben hauled himself off to the castle to get some medal or award or something and probably rub shoulders with the kingdom’s rich, famous and noble subjects.
“And,” she added, “I can’t bear to give Tala something else to do besides her healer work, like watching our house. No, it’s best you start packing now, and take the first boat in the morning for southern Meridell. I want you in bed early too, can’t have you groggy and sleepy in front of the king...”
“I can’t believe I’m already leaving tomorrow,” muttered Reuben. “And Mother... are you sure...”
She smiled at him. “I’ll manage. I always have.”
The younger Blumaroo couldn’t help but doubt. His mother had been through a lot, and was quite prone to breakdowns, especially whenever one of the boys in her family would leave to do something heroic. Must be in our bloodline or something, thought Reuben. Definitely from the father’s side. Well, at least now she knows I’m leaving and where I’m headed off to...
His thoughts hovered to something less morose – something that made his heart swell with pride and his spirits soar.
It was what he wanted all these years... to prove that he was as skilled a warrior as his father and his younger brother... to show Meridell just what he was capable of. Trestin already knew how dangerous Reuben was, knives or no, and now it was time for him to shine brighter than he already did in his little mountain-shrouded village, nearly concealed from the rest of the kingdom. It was a good feeling, and as a kid, he had always dreamed of the glory and praise great fighters would receive...
The sound of porcelain on wood jerked him back to reality.
“I made you your favorite soup, dear. Do you want me to save some for your trip tomorrow, perhaps with some tea and biscuits?”
The smell of corn further rooted him to reality, keeping his mind from wandering for a while. “Sure,” he said, glancing at the bowl Melissa had placed before him and quickly clearing his bow and everything he had used to make it from the table. “Thanks.”
“Anything for my young hero,” she said, chuckling. Then, more to herself than to her son, the white Blumaroo muttered, “They grow up so fast.”
To be continued...