Another Hero's Journey: Dreams - Part Three
“Halt! Who goes there?”
“Easy, Bolton, bring the spear down gently. It’s just Assistant Scribe Kingsrock, Leafbrown, Fidelity... wait, who’s that? My lord, isn’t that...”
Harold sat up straighter in the saddle, gesturing with a flourish to the white Blumaroo riding on Fidelity, the royal Uni, and nearly falling into his guest’s lap. “May I present to you, Honorable Reuben Deivrann, savior of Trestin –”
“I think you can just stick to Terraflare, not Deivrann,” muttered Reuben. “Besides, Deivrann’s the old name. It’s much older than my great-great grandfather.”
“They’re interchangeable, anyway,” said the red Skeith. “Nobody really cares, maybe except for those in charge of the official kingdom records... in this case, I guess that includes me. I still say I prefer Deivrann.”
“Can we go in now?” protested Leafbrown and Fidelity.
Bolton grinned apologetically. “Sorry...” The green Draik peeked through a small window in the stone wall and yelled, “Oy, you lazy bums! Open it up; Scribe Kingsrock is back!”
“Lazy – who’re you calling lazy?” asked the orange Chia who was keeping Bolton company. “After all, even after Harold introduced our very honorable guest...” he paused and inclined his head towards Reuben – “you didn’t given the signal to drop the drawbridge and open the gates right away!”
“Hold your Whinnies, Chairon, they’re already opening them! Are you blind?”
Sure enough, the Unis and their riders were backing away to make room for the descending drawbridge. Reuben was about to tell Fidelity to cross the moat when he realized that there were still the steel gates to be opened. And before the Blumaroo could say anything as the way to the castle was clear, the royal Uni galloped through the gateway, leading the pack and nearly accidentally throwing Reuben off.
* * *
“Actually, the walls were added to fortify the castle defenses, and are renovated every few months, or when needed, like right now, after Ramtor and his minions blew up much of the north wall during their tussles with the resistance. After all, there’s more to the castle than just this huge majestic emblem of monarchy we’re walking in right now. There are the royal gardens, the training grounds where knights, guardsmen, and even interested challengers practice and spar with each other...”
While Harold rambled on and on about what was inside and around the castle, Reuben was barely listening. The white Blumaroo nearly strained his neck as he looked all around him excitedly, taking in the clean marble walls, the paintings in gilded frames, tapestries depicting historical, cultural or just downright random Meridellian scenes and pretty much everything else the castle had.
After all, it was his first time to enter the castle. And what’s more, he wasn’t only in it for a little sightseeing. He was here because he was a hero – a hero to be recognized and renowned. And it was a nice feeling bubbling up inside him, especially in his head.
“Wait,” he interrupted the Skeith, “So, what’s next? Are we supposed to see someone or something?”
“Not just yet,” replied Harold, smacking Reuben in the back so hard that the Blumaroo gasped and nearly fell forward. “You have to look the part first before seeing his Majesty.”
“I thought I won’t be formally recognized till tomorrow,” Reuben muttered. “You’re confusing me.”
“No... he just needs to see you... I think he wants a word with you beforehand. Maybe about the ceremony. I’m taking you to your quarters so you can fix yourself up before lunch.”
“My – fix myself up – what?”
They got to a door at the end of the corridor, where a snoozing yellow Ixi guard was leaning on his spear, snoring loudly. Harold nudged the guard’s shoulder and said, “Wake up, sleepyhead. Master Reuben is here, and he can’t get into his quarters if you don’t give him the key.”
The Ixi stirred, swaying slightly. “Mmm – cheese omelette on Fridays, please – Scribe Kingsrock, is that you? And... and...”
“The key, Brett, we need the key!”
Brett blinked and shook his head to clear it. “What’s the password?” he asked groggily. “If you’re really Assistant Scribe Harold Kingsrock and not an impostor, and that you’re really escorting Master Reuben Deiv – fine, Terraflare, for the sake of being more recent. We should really settle this debate the next time I meet with the other scribes.”
“I thought you were a Second Order Scribe,” said Reuben, shrugging.
“It’s the same thing,” explained Harold. He turned back to Brett. “When I was three, I stuck my fingers into a King’s Poppy and licked the pollen to see what it tasted like. Then I ate its petals.”
The white Blumaroo stared at him. Actually, he stared more at the Ixi, who didn’t seem at all fazed by the Skeith’s childhood revelation.
Then Reuben shifted his stare to the key that Brett tossed his way, and reached out to catch it. “Here is the key to your room, sire,” said the guard. “If there is anything else you need, you can always ask Brett Ares, your own personal bodyguard.” The Ixi saluted, suddenly standing so straight that nobody would have guessed that he was asleep a few moments ago.
“Bodyguard?” Reuben repeated.
“But I’ll come by to fetch you for lunch,” said Harold. “I’ve got work to do. His Majesty looks forward to seeing you then.”
And before he could say, ‘majesty’, the scribe was gone, leaving the white Blumaroo to toss the key into the air a few times before actually sticking it into the hole and opening the door to his quarters.
“...What do I do now?” asked Reuben.
“You get dressed, of course!” said Brett brightly and pointing his spear at his guest’s traveling ensemble. “King Skarl likes everyone looking their best during a special banquet, especially the guest of honor! If you’ve got nothing fancy enough to meet his expectations, then you can always dig through the wardrobe, or call me –”
Reuben gave him a tight grin. “Yes. I’ll call you. If I need anything, that is. Just... do whatever you have to do.”
“Yessir!” said the yellow Ixi with a salute, nearly dropping his spear. “I’ll – ” But before he could say anything more, the Blumaroo slammed the door in his face, which, to Brett, was the signal to get back to work.
Now that the rather hyper Ixi guard and the somewhat pompous Skeith scribe were out of his hair, Reuben took a deep breath and leaned against the door, locking it and taking a good look at his room. It was rather spacious – his bedroom back in Trestin could probably fit in it and still leave a lot of room – and everything in it seemed to be large. The chandelier over his head, the four-poster canopy bed, the window with the red and blue checkered curtains and golden rope, the table, the armchair, the coat rack, the wardrobe...
Remembering Brett telling him about making himself present at the lunch banquet later on, the white Blumaroo went over to it and flung the doors open. He already had a formal, rather frilly shirt and long breeches packed away in his bag, but of course, he just had to see what the castle had to offer him. Perhaps there was something much, much less frilly...
Reuben’s curiosity paid off.
There was an entire array of shirts, cloaks, vests, long trousers, short breeches, even articles of clothing he had never seen before, at least in his life in the little mountain-shrouded village of Trestin. And to his relief, many of them weren’t frilly at all. Without a second thought, he took down a long-sleeved, gilded blue jacket with golden epaulets, a scarlet shirt with glistening golden buttons, and several other pieces that caught his eye, laid them on his bed, and began picking through them.
The Blumaroo had never been so conscious of his appearance. After all, this was the king, plus some random nobles who wore fancy things everyday. He grinned, thinking of what his younger brother had to go through before meeting and when he met Skarl... he probably thought of the same things Reuben was thinking now...
The thought of Rohane made Reuben suddenly drop the cape he was considering back onto his bed and erased the mischievous smile from his face. Where was he now? Now that he knew there was no chance of finding his brother in the castle, for a fleeting moment Reuben wondered what he was doing there in the first place.
Maybe King Skarl knew the answers... and maybe if he was presentable enough, the Skeith would let Reuben ask all the questions he wanted. He pondered this for a moment, gazing at the pile of clothes on his bed.
Plus, he was obviously hoping that Reuben looked more like a real hero than just a random ragamuffin from a far-flung village.
Hey, Rohane, the white Blumaroo mentally wrote out a letter to his brother, I’ve got some posh digs here in the castle, since they dropped me a line and told me to come because of that whole bandit thing that made me famous and such. I bet you got real royal treatment, since you didn’t save just a single village, no? Maybe you could tell me what it’s like, I can tell you about what happened to me, and both of us can have a good laugh.
He wanted to put it in writing, but he had absolutely no idea what address to send it to.
All it took was a single name to chase every last proud, victorious thought from Reuben’s head. For several moments, he forgot that he was a hero of Trestin about to be honored by the king and his court, and anxiety and worry knotted anew in his heart.
Just because of that name.
His younger brother’s name.
Rohane... where the heck are you now?!
To be continued...