Another Hero's Journey: Decisions - Part One
Andrea cautiously opened the door a crack. She found herself staring into a rather average bedroom – with a bed, a full-length mirror, a couple of closets, a chest of drawers, a chair and a desk. And tacked up on just about every wall were sketches of different blades and bows in various stages of creation, among other pieces of paper. There was even a small pile of wood shavings in one corner.
Sitting at the desk was a white Blumaroo hunched over more sheets of paper scattered all over the wooden surface. Clad in a simple shirt, vest, breeches and boots, he glanced over his shoulder at the sound of Andrea’s footsteps and the creak of the door.
“Hey, Reuben,” said the red Kyrii as she smoothed out her knee-length navy skirt. “Aren’t you going to work today?”
“Oh, sorry,” he said, quickly gathering up his papers and stashing them in a drawer in his desk. One of them fluttered out of his paws, and Andrea quickly crossed the room, bending over to pick it up. She had only a glimpse of the precise yet seemingly hurried handwriting on the paper before passing it back to Reuben, who suddenly looked sadder.
“Are all those... letters from your brother?” said the Kyrii as he quickly put the last sheet into the drawer and shut it with only a little difficulty. “Has he written back since that last really long letter you sent him?”
The white Blumaroo stood up, paws in pockets. “Twice. The first one came from Happy Valley; the other from the Lost Desert.” Andrea followed him to the door and shut it behind her gently. She was silent for a couple of moments, thinking of what else she could say.
“Uh... that Draik guard from the castle... he got here pretty early for his new longbow.”
“Already finished it last night... you can’t find it? I always put it where we keep all the custom-made bows. I don’t know why, but these days, everyone’s going for customization. Oh well, business is business; I can’t argue with that.” He chuckled shortly before resuming his gloomy disposition.
Andrea nodded in agreement and let out a soft sigh.
* * *
Reuben’s weapon shop and smithy, Blades ‘n’ Bows, had come a long way from being a simple shed. Using some of his earnings, he had expanded the place, especially as he started getting into made to order weapons. He shared the lucrative business with Andrea and her younger brother Ruben, and a few other smiths and apprentices. It was the only shop for miles around in that particular region of Meridell, but was quickly gaining attention all over the kingdom.
The green Draik guard grinned toothily as he placed a small bag of Neopoints onto the counter and grabbed his longbow, clutching it to his chest. “It’s perfect!” he declared. “Even better than I thought it would be! Thank you so much, Mister Reuben, sir!”
“Don’t just thank me,” said the white Blumaroo, who couldn’t help beaming back. “Thank Ruben too – he’s sort of my apprentice. His whittling is really improving, you know,” he added, raising his voice.
“All right, tell him I said thanks too! I’m really telling everyone about this place! It’s definitely worth the trip from Meridell Castle!” But instead of hightailing it out the door, he dithered and stared at Reuben.
“Is it true... that your brother is currently in the Lost Desert now? I thought he was in Terror Mountain.”
That was all it took to instantly wipe the smile from the Blumaroo’s face.
He slumped and placed his elbows on the counter, preferring to gaze at the Neopoints between his arms as he told the story in a rather deadpan tone. “Well... yeah, it’s true. After everything in Terror Mountain, Rohane sent me a letter saying that he was already in Sakhmet Palace with Mipsy and Talinia. Apparently, there’s been a string of mysterious sandstorms in the Lost Desert – it’s been in the Times for a long while, remember? Nobody knows how it all began, or how to stop them. It’s been getting worse. Plus, they just seem... unnatural.”
The guard took it all in, and nodded, gaping in awe. “Wow... first Meridell, then Terror Mountain, and now the Lost Desert...”
“I know,” said Reuben, shrugging. “Just when I thought he was finally coming home...” But he only said that last bit after the green Draik left.
Still, the white Blumaroo had to admit that the fact that he was Rohane’s older brother was also helping his business. There was nothing like being related to a celebrity, especially a hero who saved not just one but two Neopian lands. Many of Reuben’s customers often ended up asking about his extremely adventurous sibling – and some of those “customers” were really journalists and scribes who always came back for more, but never really bought or requested anything from his shop.
Of course, despite Rohane’s current status as the young and intrepid hero, Reuben was constantly worried about him. It was brotherly instinct. They were family, and the two Blumaroos were thick as thieves, at least, for most of their lives.
He nearly jumped and upset the bag of money he had left sitting on the counter. Whipping around, he saw a white Kyrii come out through the rough brown curtains that separated the workshop from the actual shop. He clutched a whittling knife in one paw and an almost-finished bow in the other.
“I heard everything. You know, we should really get some real doors.”
“’Ben, don’t pop in like that,” said Reuben. But he brightened up slightly when the Kyrii called him “boss” and he saw the bow – but mostly because of his superior title. “And I’m serious. You’re really making some progress. I wouldn’t be surprised if you put up your own bow shop. Then I’ll actually have some competition.”
“No way,” said Ruben, who was often just called Ben. “I like working with you and my sister.” He shook his head staunchly. “Speaking of which, we have a surprise for you. Can you come with me for a bit?”
“Sure, Clarence can take over. Oy, Clarence, over here!” The white Blumaroo called a spotted Mynci over from a display of daggers. “Could you watch the counter for a bit? Call me out if there’s a client who had a customization job.”
The Mynci saluted as he waddled toward the counter, hopping up onto the three-legged stool. “Yes sir, Reuben sir!”
With that taken care of, Reuben followed Ruben into the smithy. Looking around at the busy workers, anvils, hammers, half-finished weapons, the lone furnace, and everything else, Reuben didn’t notice anything remotely surprising. That is, until a green Kacheek leapt up from the nearest bench and threw himself at the Blumaroo, squeezing him tightly.
“Reuben, we decided to pay you another visit!” the Kacheek crowed excitedly. “And, Omar and I are thinking of working more often here... we could test out new swords and knives and bows and...”
“Devin?” Reuben gasped, grinning widely as he slowly wriggled out of his friend’s grasp, catching his breath. “Devin... I thought... and Omar... what about Miss Olivia...”
“Glad to know you still remember me,” said a burly brown Lupe, who stood up from where he sat beside Andrea, who was busy taking inventory of the customized weapons. “Anyhow, Mother says that she foresaw herself visiting some comrades in northwestern Meridell in a dream.” He hefted a curved dagger before passing it back to Ruben. “Hey, this is good. It’s pretty light.”
Ruben nodded. “I know, right? It’s Clarence’s work, though. He’s standing in for Reuben right now outside...”
“Oh, all right then. I’ll tell him later. Anyway, Mother also decided that it was a good time to see you again, dream or no dream, but she told us to go on ahead and surprise you. For some odd reason, the Hills of Trest are a good place for a nature diviner like her, or so she says.” Omar shrugged. “I just hope she remembers to actually come to Trestin.”
Devin and Ruben laughed with the Lupe, and many of the smiths followed their lead. Those who didn’t simply chuckled or grinned instead. Andrea glanced up from where she was writing a list and quickly stifled a giggle, choosing to smile instead.
But her smile faded at the sight of Reuben, who was the only one not amused. And the red Kyrii was not the only one who noticed.
“Hey... you all right?” Devin waved a paw in front of the white Blumaroo’s face.
“His work’s probably getting to him; he might need a vacation,” Ruben suggested.
“Huh? Oh... I’m fine, I just... thought of something. Good one, Omar. Never knew you had it in you.” It was only after saying this that Reuben realized how monotonous his voice really was and how eager he was to finish what he wanted to say. He cleared his throat and added, “Look, I’ll be outside for a bit. Maybe I do need a bit of fresh air. Devin, Omar, it’s... nice seeing you two again, by the way. Really.”
And with that, he strode past everyone else, who traded looks as he walked out the wooden back door, much to their astonishment.
“I thought he would be happy to see you guys,” said Ruben apologetically. “All right, everyone, nothing to see, back to work. The boss probably does need some time off.” But before either the green Kacheek or the brown Lupe, or anyone else could comment, Ruben’s sister quickly left her post and dashed out the door as well.
“What the – “ The white Kyrii turned to gape at his friends.
“Don’t worry,” Omar reassured him. “If there’s anyone who can figure out what’s happening with Reuben, it’s Andrea. Honestly... he’s different. Definitely a lot more different than the last time we saw him.”
Devin could only nod in agreement, and shook his head as he watched Ruben start after his sister. The Kacheek reached out and gripped the Kyrii’s shoulder.
“Omar’s right. Let them go for a bit. It’ll be good... for the both of them.”
To be continued...