Another Hero's Journey: Dreams - Part Seven
“It’s fifteen minutes to nine... where is he? Ouch – oh, it’s only you, Brett. Have you seen Reuben anywhere?”
“No, I was kinda thinking he was with you. D’you think he’s still primping himself in his quarters?”
“Reuben doesn’t strike me as that kind of lad, but lead the way, old chap! Perhaps he just woke up a little late. Oh great, now it is fourteen minutes to nine! Come on, we have to hurry!”
The red Skeith and the yellow Ixi thundered down the corridors of Meridell Castle, the former clutching a gilded pocket watch and anxiously glancing at it every five seconds, and the latter leading the way and almost colliding into a cluster of pretty ladies-in-waiting. They all giggled and demurely hid their faces behind fans and handkerchiefs as Brett left them with only a salute and a smile.
“You can get acquainted with them later, Brett!” complained Harold, huffing and puffing as he kept up with his swift companion. “We have to get Reuben!”
“What do you think I’m doing?” asked the Ixi, looking back and shrugging. “Ah, here we are...”
They found a sinewy fire Scorchio in the hallway, clad in guard livery and standing beside a particular door – or in this case, leaning against his spear, fast asleep. Brett gently nudged him with the butt of his own spear and whispered into the Scorchio’s ear.
“Oy, Arvine, wake up, you sleepyhead. Hasn’t Reuben come out of his quarters yet?”
“Hmm?” mumbled the Scorchio, stirring but still not letting go of his weapon. “What–”
“Well... his door’s still locked. That must mean he’s still inside.”
“Brett, you ninny, you know I’m a light sleeper and if sire came out for any reason or another while I was taking a nap, I would’ve known,” Arvine was telling Brett when Harold raised a fist and rapped sharply beside the ornate handle.
The three of them waited, with the red Skeith consulting his watch again and muttering something about thirteen minutes to go. But it was Arvine who took the initiative to knock again – harder and much more loudly than either Harold or Brett could have managed. “Sire Reuben,” the Scorchio called in the regal voice that clashed with his rather thuggish appearance, toeing the border between speaking and shouting, “Scribe Kingsrock and Brett are here to see you, sir, as the knighting ceremony will start really soon...”
“Twelve and a half minutes!” howled Harold, his tone rising abruptly. “Please, Master Reuben!” His paw closed so tightly around his watch that it hurt.
“Best you get out now, before Scribe Kingsrock loses it,” added Brett, earning a glare from the Skeith.
Whether it really just took Reuben awhile to answer, he got tired of playing deaf, or it was Brett’s remark that got him the most, the three heard a faint click and the creak of an opening door. Arvine and Brett instantly steeled themselves, standing ramrod straight and saluting.
The white Blumaroo stood there in the doorway, clad in a gilded scarlet jacket with glistening buttons, navy breeches tucked into high black boots bordered with red, and a long tasseled cape with bright yellow epaulets and clasps resembling tiny blades. This time, he clipped two gold loops in his right ear, and for some reason, carried a sheathed knife strapped to his belt, which had a golden buckle shaped like a shield. But what stood out the most in his ensemble was a single aquamarine stone, hanging by a silver chain around his neck, clinking gently against one of the buttons.
But despite being all dressed up, he didn’t look ready to go. He slouched, his posture a far cry from that of the guards, and his paws were deep in his pockets. To top it all off, he was not smiling at all. He looked more like someone being marched off to meet his executioner.
“Uh...” Harold opened his mouth to say something, but that was all that came out of it.
“What kept you, sir?” asked Arvine slowly.
“I... overslept,” Reuben answered. “Sorry about that.”
Brett and Arvine bought the alibi, but the Skeith wasn’t.
“If you overslept, your clothes would have been slightly rumpled and something would have been out of place, as you would have hurried to get dressed. Or, you would open the door for all of us to see you still in your nightshirt. If I’m not mistaken, you have been dressed properly for quite a while. At least, that’s what I think. And lighten up, young chap! King Skarl’s going to knight you, not throw you into the dungeons!”
Reuben raised a paw to object, but it fell to his side limply as he let out a sigh.
“Okay, okay, I did skip breakfast, but I did oversleep a bit. When I woke up, it was already half past eight.”
“Never mind, never mind, we’re wasting all this time standing around yapping our mouths off,” said Harold, shaking his head. “We have ten minutes. Don’t worry; I will make sure you get a proper breakfast after the ceremony. There is a celebratory banquet, after all. You know how his Majesty loves his celebratory banquets, and this is quite a good reason to throw one. Oh dear – now we only have nine minutes!”
Reluctantly the Blumaroo allowed the three of them to escort him to the throne room after his quarters were securely locked. They passed several nobles who started whispering and gawping at Reuben as he went down corridor after corridor, retracing the steps he had taken last night.
This was it.
He was seized with a sudden urge to turn back and run back into his room, but he couldn’t do it. Instead, despite his mind’s protests, his legs continued marching off with Harold, Brett and Arvine.
* * *
The main hall was abuzz. Meridellians from all walks of life, of every species and color possible, were gathered there, but kept the red carpet at the center that stretched from the double doors to King Skarl’s throne clean. Four of them even gathered underneath a tapestry of the legendary Queen Allison, one of Skarl’s ancestors.
“Apparently, not even the scribes had no idea that his Majesty was actually planning on making my son a knight... still, when the news came...”
“Don’t start worrying again, Mel. This is different. Reuben’s going to become a knight... just like Reynold. Wasn’t this always what he wanted? Pity Li’s quite sick and couldn’t come... she would have loved to see her friend on this special day...”
Melissa ran a nervous paw through her light curls before smoothing out her teal skirt. “I know, Tala... oh, if only Reynold and Rohane were here to see this...”
A red Aisha placed a warm paw on the white Blumaroo’s shoulder. “They would be proud of their son and older brother. And I wonder... what happened to Rohane? Did they knight him too? Surely saving Meridell would be enough to merit the honor...”
Meanwhile, beside them, a couple of Kyrii were having a conversation of their own.
“It was really kind of Miss Melissa and Miss Tala to invite us to Reuben’s knighting ceremony,” said the red Kyrii, adjusting one of the straps of her carnation gown and pulling up one of her pale pink satin gloves. “Though I wish everyone else were with us too...”
“Aunt Olivia can’t; she already made a very important appointment for today, and Devin and Omar would be coming with her, Andy,” replied her white companion. “Besides –”
His words were cut short by a trumpet blast, followed by several more, all of them echoing in everyone’s ears.
“It’s starting,” said the Kyrii called Andy. “Do you see Reuben anywhere, Ruben?”
“That sounds really redundant,” was the amused reply. “And this place is packed, can’t see much... let’s squeeze ourselves in up front... maybe we still can. Come on.” He beckoned the Aisha and Blumaroo as well. “Miss Melissa, Miss Tala, let’s find a good place to see Reuben.”
Andrea heeded her younger brother’s words and followed him as he brushed past some rather disgruntled old Moehogs. As they continued to fight for their right to a good spot, and as the other two found a less cumbersome opening, they heard the deep, bass voice of the herald, which came right after the last of the trumpeting faded away and as several uniformed troops marched in first, taking their places on each side of the carpeted aisle and standing tall.
“Hear ye, hear ye! Second Order Scribe Harold Kingsrock and Guardsmen Brett Ares and Arvine Oak would like to present the honorable hero of Trestin, son of the legendary Sir Reynold, older brother to Rohane, savior of Meridell and victor over Ramtor...”
* * *
When his name was called, Reuben thought his heart had turned to lead and plummeted into his stomach. He felt a nudge at his side – the signal to start walking down the aisle and be recognized by every Meridellian in the throne room. To the white Blumaroo, the carpet seemed to stretch for miles, King Skarl and his throne dwarfed by distance...
Brett and Arvine were already walking ahead of him, mail and spears shining in the streaming sunlight, and they too, seemed so far away.
Harold nudged him again. Taking a deep breath, Reuben put one foot forward, feeling sweat drops begin to gather somewhere around his forehead. His eyes darted left and right, taking in as many faces as he could, half-searching for any familiar ones, besides the nobles he had rubbed shoulders with yesterday. After all, hadn’t Harold told him that they would send word to Trestin about the knighting?
Knighting... The word used to send a frisson of excitement through him as a child training under his father. Now, it made his heart sink even lower, if that was possible.
It was almost like his dream. There were guests whispering and gawking at him, and besides those little snatches of conversation and maybe a few footsteps here and there including Brett’s and Arvine’s, the place was silent, save for the sounds of drawn sabers as the guards raised the blades over their heads, creating a sharp silvery roof as Reuben passed.
But there was something that he had not seen in his dream – or hadn’t noticed. It sort of lifted his heart slightly.
Among the sea of faces were four that were more than just familiar. One of them waved excitedly, two smiled and waved a little less ostentatiously, and the last simply offered him a warm smile. An aquamarine gem on one of the smiling guests’ ears caught the morning sun and twinkled like a star in the blackest night.
With a little effort, the Blumaroo managed to raise the corners of his mouth slightly before he drew farther away from them, and got several steps closer to the throne, where King Skarl and the guards waited, the former clutching a large, jeweled sword in one paw and his scepter in another.
To be continued...