Another Hero's Journey: Decisions - Part Two
I’m really sorry if I can’t always write back to you. I wish I could.
We had to move after our brief stop at Happy Valley. Mipsy, Talinia and I spent most of our last several days at Terror Mountain climbing all the way to the peak through some caves in order to save the Snowager. I never realized that he was more than just a giant snow worm that blasted anyone who tried to steal his treasure. Before you ask, we stole nothing. I swear. He could probably tell if we did.
Now, I’m writing to you from Sakhmet Palace. Remember those weird sandstorms in the Lost Desert? Well, now we’ve been asked to look into it, right after we freed the Snowager. There wasn’t even any time for a ceremony or something – not that I wanted one. It’s too much trouble, really. Anyway, those sandstorms are getting worse, too – there have been reports of strange creatures actually coming out from the sand. Mipsy just said that they were probably just mirages, while Talinia argued that the wind just keeps reshaping the sand dunes, which makes them look like they’re alive. But I can’t be too sure.
As much as I would like to come home right now and see you, Mother, and everyone else at Trestin, and your weapon shop, I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, we could figure out what’s going on in the Lost Desert. Then, I promise, I’ll be back. I asked Mipsy and Talinia if they wanted to go home, but they told me that they were coming, no matter what. I knew I could count on them.
That’s all I can tell you for now. The palace scholars are advising us to leave as soon as possible for the Temple of the Sky. Unfortunately, instead of a map, we only have some vague directions and a compass.
Wish us luck,
The white Blumaroo gripped the letter so tightly that it crumpled in his paw. His younger brother’s writing was frantic, as though someone was telling him to write faster, and there were a few stray drips of ink here and there, along with a couple of smudges. Reuben remembered when he first unrolled the scroll bordered with blue and gold stripes, and stamped with Princess Vyssa’s royal seal. Grits of sand had managed to find their way into the scroll, proof of the storms that constantly reared their ugly heads in the Lost Desert.
Glancing down at the letter, Reuben slowly began rolling it again and placed it safely in his vest pocket.
He turned around, but he knew better than to reach for any of the knives strapped to his belt. The Blumaroo could recognize that voice anywhere, and was proven right when he saw a red Kyrii gazing at him, worry written all over her face.
“You can abuse that ‘I need a break and some fresh air’ alibi all you want, but I can see right through it.”
Reuben said nothing and looked away as she approached him.
“I know what your problem is. You’re worried about your brother. You thought he was finally coming home, and then it turns out he isn’t, and it bothers you when you don’t know what’s happening to him. It’s one thing when you read about him in the Neopian Times, and I bet it’s so much more different when you actually get a letter from him.”
“The Times barely covered their story. The last I’ve read about Rohane, Mipsy and Talinia was their brief stay at Waset Village. Usually they’re just short articles, rumors about something called the Medallion of Wind and another traveler joining them... then nothing.”
Andrea squeezed his paw tightly, reassuringly. “Maybe we could talk about it, while we have a short walk. You’ve been like this for a while now, and it’s only a matter of time before it starts showing in your work...”
“We could walk for a bit around here; there’s a pretty wide open space between here and the Hills of Trest.”
The corners of Andrea’s mouth moved up into a small, hopeful smile, and they started ambling toward the distant outline of the hills.
* * *
“I know he’s old enough to take care of himself – and others, but I really can’t help worrying about him. I know staying here in Meridell is for the best, since I can stay with Mother and run my business. And yet... this tiny voice telling me that Rohane needs my help comes back...”
Andrea leaned back against the large oak tree, sitting down beside Reuben. “I know what you mean. When we have little brothers or sisters, no matter how annoying they can be – we feel responsible for them. It’s really like that... like me and Ben.”
The white Blumaroo nodded, and actually chuckled. “My little brother can be a real pain in the neck sometimes. Actually, most of the time,” he mused, almost more to himself than to her. “Years ago, if someone told me that Rohane would suddenly go on an epic adventure and leave us all behind, I would have asked them if they were crazy. I can’t imagine life without him... and yet here I am, sitting with you under this tree instead of him. Not that I don’t like sitting with you here. You get what I mean.”
It was the Kyrii’s turn to nod. “It’s normal for you to be anxious. Aunt Olivia once told me that we all fear the unknown. We don’t like being in the dark, or being the last to know. Just... don’t let it get to you. Whatever happened to the Reuben I knew, who held his head up high and said, ‘I know Rohane will come back. He promised, and he keeps his promises.’?”
“Promises can be broken.”
“Reuben, don’t think like that!” said Andrea, almost in outrage.
“I thought you said I couldn’t help it,” was the rueful reply. Reuben drew his knees up to his chin and wrapped his arms around them.
Andrea sighed, staring up at the passing clouds. She managed to keep her voice even as she said, “What I meant is that it’s normal for you to be worried, but it’s not normal for you to let that worrying stop you from doing what you usually do. I mean...” Her voice trailed off, and she let out a long, low breath. “Great, I don’t know how to say it...”
For several moments, she decided to simply stay quiet, and her companion did the same. They either stared out at the hills, or the patches of trees that would lead to the nearest forest, or the shop and smithy, which was only a short walk away, or even the azure sky over them, dotted with patches of white here and there. After a while, Andrea looked to her right, and saw that the Blumaroo had already stood up, brushing some grass and dirt off his breeches. Bending down slightly, he stretched out a paw and helped her up to her feet.
“You know, I haven’t talked like that in a while,” he said. “And it made me feel a bit better. Sometimes I forget that we tend to think alike, because we’ve both got little brothers.”
“Don’t worry so much, Reuben,” the red Kyrii repeated. “You have so many of us to talk to when you need to, not only me or your mother. Then there’s also Devin, Omar and Aunt Olivia... and I bet you have a lot of friends around Trestin you could run to. You don’t have to carry everything on your own. I’m willing to help you, and I’m sure everyone else is.”
With that, she gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. It probably was; he actually smiled back.
* * *
Reuben knew it was already late, and that he would have to get up early to work, but even so, he couldn’t sleep. He turned over on his bed and saw the still form of Ruben snoring away on his cot, looking so peaceful that the white Blumaroo was actually quite jealous of him.
He thought back to the night’s dinner. His mother was pleasantly surprised to see that she had visitors who would be spending more than just a night or two, and quickly fixed up a large dinner. The food and the camaraderie helped Reuben forget his worries – but only for a while. He had even excused himself from the table to work on a new crossbow design, only to find that he was totally uninspired. Giving up, he decided to just turn in early, and realized that he had trouble falling asleep. He always did when there was something on his mind, something he just couldn’t banish in the blink of an eye.
Sitting up, the Blumaroo drew his blankets around him tightly. He wondered what it would be like to doze in the Lost Desert, where sandstorms reigned and raged. Would a tent be enough to keep them away? Would there be kind locals who were always willing to make room for another traveler... or more?
Moonlight streamed into his open window, pooling in a bright patch on the wooden floor close to where the white Kyrii was asleep; it was a cloudless, clear night. Obviously, the same would not hold true in a turbulent place where sand constantly swirled up and blurred everything around it.
Reuben lay back down, still bundled up in his blankets. He stared up at the ceiling, and with a pang of anxiety, realized that his younger brother may not be sleeping underneath one tonight – at least, a very sturdy and reliable one.
Sure, Rohane sent letters, and now one of Reuben’s desk drawers was overflowing with them, but somehow, it wasn’t enough. It used to be enough – or maybe that was when they could keep up a steady correspondence. Letters became fewer and farther between, sometimes even shorter, especially when the adventurous yellow Blumaroo would tell Reuben to stop writing for a while, as sometimes they had to travel through the wilderness, completely cut off from any means to send mail.
Andrea was right. The white Blumaroo used to be content with just reading about Rohane’s escapades, and had even begun to think more like an optimist. But where had all that optimism gone? Maybe it was because he hadn’t received a letter in two, even three months. It was normal for anyone to worry, but this kind of worry seemed to take over him, like a haunting shadow that followed him wherever he went, its dark tendrils engulfing him, never letting go...
Turning over, he tried to go back to sleep.
All efforts proved to be futile, especially when another idea hit him... something that had not hit him for months, an option he probably should consider again, which made his efforts even more futile.
To be continued...