Another Hero's Journey: Dreams - Part Eight
“Meridell Castle welcomes you to today’s knighting ceremony, where another worthy hero shall join the ranks of the great and renowned knights of Meridell. As well all know, Reuben here has earned his place after he managed to unite his village, Trestin, against a band of invading bandits, and even showed mercy to these merciless mercenaries. Truly, he is a model of chivalrous ideals, and that is why he stands here today before me, for I will now initiate him into knighthood...”
Reuben could feel himself swaying on the spot, struggling to stand as tall as he could and look as presentable as possible. He could feel many eyes on him as King Skarl continued his speech, but he barely listened, as his mind was on more important matters, though also related to the ceremony at hand.
Snapping out of his trance, the white Blumaroo did as he was told, his right knee touching the carpeted floor just in front of the dais where the Skeith king and his throne stood. On either side of him were the two guards, Brett and Arvine, they and their spears standing ramrod-straight.
And yet, a part of Reuben told him that he should have dithered, shouldn’t have, even though he was facing the kingdom’s monarch...
“Do you pledge to always stay true to Meridell and its Crown, to your comrades, to your family, and to yourself?”
“Yes, I do.” The words came out of the Blumaroo’s mouth before he could stop them, and he repeated them a second time after realizing how faint they were.
“Do you pledge to protect Meridell from the forces that may threaten it to the best of your ability and fight for justice and freedom?”
“Yes, I promise.”
“Do you pledge to serve the Crown with honor and dedicate your life, talents, and whole self for the greater good of the kingdom?”
“Yes...” Reuben’s voice trailed off, and he concentrated on staring at the floor beneath him.
For a moment, a ringing silence dominated the throne room. The tiniest of noises seemed greatly magnified in the stillness, until King Skarl spoke once again.
“Then I dub thee, Sir Reuben Desmond Amaranth-Terraflare of Trestin...”
The blue Skeith raised his ornate sword high, the blunt side several inches above Reuben’s shoulder. It came down ever so slowly, timed to touch the Blumaroo at the exact moment when Skarl finished his sentence.
“... a bona fide knight...”
Now’s the time, said the part of Reuben’s mind that attempted to contradict the king’s wishes. Do it now...
The sword hummed softly as it made its descent, and was half an inch away...
And then the white Blumaroo stood up, avoiding the blade as though it were poisonous, amidst a collective gasp from the crowd.
Even King Skarl himself stepped back, his eyes so wide that they looked as though they would pop out of their sockets and his mouth the exact shape of an O. In his astonishment, he dropped the sword with a clang that rang in the wake of the gasp, mingling with the sudden outburst of frantic dialogue and something about one of the ladies-in-waiting fainting.
“I can’t,” whispered Reuben, clenching his fists as he raised his head to face the king, and Brett and Arvine traded several unfathomable looks. “I can’t,” Reuben repeated, even louder, so loud that it was heard over everything else.
It took a while for the Skeith to regain control of his tongue as he picked up the sword. “Pardon...”
“I’m sorry, Highness,” said the Blumaroo, bowing low but keeping his eyes on Skarl. “I can’t accept it.”
Skarl held out a paw for quiet before asking, “The knighting?” He chuckled and added, “Such a modest one... just like your father...”
Reuben shook his head. “No, really... I cannot accept this, sire, even though I’m sure you want me to.”
The white Blumaroo stood taller as he answered, “Forgive me for such a last-moment decision, Majesty.” He bowed again before continuing. “Ever since you have proposed this to me, I have given it a lot of thought. And... to be perfectly honest, I don’t think being a knight is for me. Perhaps it is for my father, and probably also for my younger brother...”
Here, the entire hall fell silent in memory of their missing savior. Had anyone glanced at one of Reuben’s fists, they would see that they were trembling slightly.
“Becoming a knight has always been my childhood dream,” Reuben went on, turning to face the guests. He could barely make out his mother and some of his friends, and decided to focus on them. “My father taught us both, seeing how we both wanted to be like him. But well... that was a long time ago. That was then; this is now. I think... maybe there’s something else for me. I think I already have something in mind, but I can’t be sure.
“But what I am sure of is that even though it’s quite an honor, I don’t want to be a knight... not anymore.”
His last syllable hung in the air, buoyed by the ringing silence, which was broken by King Skarl, the only one who still managed to find his voice.
“Reuben... so, you really mean it?” he asked in a whisper that was almost lost in a breakout of more whispering. “My boy, I can hardly remember the last time anyone refused this accolade... but the fact still remains that we are indebted to you. You may ask for a favor, anything at all, that may help you in what you wish to do now. Is there anything you desire? After all, even though you are not a knight, you are still a hero.”
Reuben couldn’t help grinning at this. “I don’t know, really... I’ll have to give it some thought as well. Besides, I don’t want to be too demanding. Even if I am a hero,” he added with a laugh.
“So you’re absolutely sure about this?” Skarl asked again.
“Yes, I do,” said the white Blumaroo gravely. “But I am grateful that you and Meridell have offered it to me, your Majesty. Still, I know some who are more deserving of it than I am... perhaps you should save it for when Rohane returns.”
“You really believe he’ll come back?” asked the king incredulously. Apparently, he had completely forgotten that he had promised to tell Reuben about it yesterday.
With a faraway glint in his eyes, Reuben replied, “I do. And I’ll be waiting.”
* * *
“Reuben... when you return to Trestin with your mother and friends, what will you do next?” Harold Kingsrock couldn’t help asking before a blue Xweetok ran into him, almost making him drop his goblet. “Hey, you, watch where you’re going! This is Meridell Castle, not a raucous village tavern!”
The Blumaroo shrugged, leaning casually against the end of one of the buffet tables. “I asked King Skarl if he could help me start a weapon-making business while we were eating. I can carve out a good bow, but I daresay my forging needs some work. But I know a good teacher back in Trestin, he used to be a good friend of my father. His Majesty wanted to have some of the best smiths in the kingdom teach me, but I told him I would be fine.”
“Are you sure you really don’t want to be a knight?” asked Melissa. “It seemed like only yesterday that you were prancing around the house with your little wooden sword, challenging your brother and bombarding your father with questions... ”
“I’m sure, Mother,” said Reuben solemnly, answering that question for the umpteenth time. “I’m absolutely sure. In fact, I can’t wait to go home so I can whittle out more bows besides mine. I’m almost done with it, though, and Brett and Arvine told me that they would buy the first two bows I sell.”
“In that case, I get dibs on the third,” a white Kyrii put in, walking up to them with a half-eaten strawberry scone in one paw. “And, do you offer lessons?”
Reuben laughed. “I’m better off teaching you how to throw a mean knife, Ruben. Hmm... that’s a good idea...”
“Let’s take things a step at a time,” said the older white Blumaroo.
“Your mum’s right,” said Harold, nodding. “Anyway – ooh, is that one of those strawberry scones? I think I’ll help myself to one... or maybe two. I do hope they remembered to leave me some!”
“I think you’d better hurry; everyone’s flocking over to the dessert table,” said Ruben, stepping aside as the red Skeith strode past him stake his claim.
Meanwhile, Reuben caught sight of a beautiful red Kyrii facing a large glass window, both her paws occupied with something. As his mother began to converse with several noble ladies around her age, and Ruben waved to Brett and Arvine, the yellow Ixi and fire Scorchio guards, the white Blumaroo approached the red Kyrii and saw that she was writing on a small piece of parchment with a light blue quill that perfectly matched the gem she wore in one ear.
“Oh... hi, Reuben.” She looked up from her work, gently brushing a stray strand of her mane away from her eyes. “You’re... wearing the necklace I gave you?”
Reuben glanced down at the aquamarine stone dangling from his neck. “I wore it to the ceremony... for good luck, not to mention my favorite knife.”
“You mean the one Rohane gave you as a birthday gift?”
The white Blumaroo nodded, feeling the sheathed blade strapped to his belt. “Yeah...”
“Anyway... you’re really serious about not accepting knighthood?”
“How many times do I have to say it?” Reuben raised another question, smirking. “I’m really sure. Seriously, what’s wrong with that? A lot of legendary figures in history weren’t knights, right? Besides, I don’t think I’d do well in the Meridellian army. I’d do much better in the sidelines, making weapons for them and only fighting if I have to.”
It was the Kyrii’s turn to nod, as she adjusted one of the ornate hairpins keeping her mane in place.
“So... about what really happened with Rohane after he and Mipsy saved Meridell,” she said slowly. “He didn’t leave anything behind for you?”
“Not this time,” said Reuben, shrugging sadly. “They disappeared without a trace. Still... I believe they’re alive. My little brother never goes down without a fight... a real good one. I know; I fought with him a lot.”
Andrea demurely giggled behind her piece of parchment before her face was serious again. “You won’t go searching for them again?”
The white Blumaroo shook his head, frowning thoughtfully. “No... I know my place. My place is in Trestin, whittling bows, forging swords, and keeping Mother and everyone else company... not as a knight of Meridell.” He watched the quill scratch against the parchment again before the Kyrii lifted it up with a little scowl.
“Out of ink,” she muttered. “I have to go find that nice scribe who carries an inkwell around... the red Skeith...”
“Harold,” Reuben answered, watching her disappear into the crowd, her two-inch heels clapping against the glistening floor. That left him alone with the clear window that showed him a nice view of the rolling green landscape and the mountains that sprouted from it, reaching up like large gray fingers into the sky. He wasn’t too sure if, behind those mountains, was his hometown...
He let out a long, low breath, which turned into fog upon contact with the glass and blurred the other Blumaroo staring back at him.
Did I really do it... turn down the honor... in front of everyone like that? Somehow that got a little, almost maniacal chuckle out of him. Wow... and I thought I couldn’t. Still... I just can’t see myself as a knight, at least, not anymore. I guess stuff like that really happens. Maybe when I was a kid, I dreamed of becoming a hero, not exactly a knight.
And now I’m a hero.
Though it took awhile to sink in...
Reuben smiled, and his reflection beamed back at him.
Time to chase a new dream.