Another Hero's Journey: Decisions - Part Nine
The way to the Altar of Destiny was alight with magical fire. Bluish-white flames erupted, bathing the topmost floor of Zakharukh’s Pyramid in dazzling light for a split second.
And Rohane learned, for the umpteenth time, that it was never comfortable to fall while wearing metal armor. He gasped, leaning on his sword; the blast was thankfully not as strong as he had expected, but it still knocked the wind out of him. The effect was akin to being smacked with a giant frying pan. He touched the large medallion that hung around his neck on a thin, cheap chain. It was still intact, at least. That was good.
“Now... you will pay for disturbing my slumber! None shall touch the Altar of Destiny while I stand!”
The desert Blumaroo advanced toward his other three opponents, raising his staff high. It began to glow with the same ominous radiance that laid their leader low a moment ago. A red Techo tried his best to shield the other two; a blue Acara and a green Eyrie.
A tongue of fire blazed from the curved staff. Rohane, now able to stand, did the first thing that he thought of.
He ran straight into the path of the blast.
For a moment, everything shone blue and white again, temporarily blinding anyone within range. The yellow Blumaroo tried not to scream, even though this spell was at least three times as worse as the last one he had been hit with. True warriors never complained; they only did their duty. Still, when his surroundings cleared and the last spots danced away from his vision, he winced; every part of him hurt. It was much harder to stand now.
“Quite gallant,” Anubits couldn’t help remarking. Rohane could see that the resurrected pharaoh was also wearing down; perhaps one last strike could finish him off. “But gallantry is not enough to save you.”
“You’re... right,” the warrior rasped, struggling to get back onto his feet. He swayed, but willed himself not to drop. “Gallantry isn’t enough.”
And then he sprang forward, ignoring the protests from his arms and legs.
“That’s why I have a sword!”
It would be the last thing Anubits ever saw – the flashing blade that decided the outcome of the battle. Before Rohane’s comrades could move a muscle, the desert Blumaroo fell, the staff clattering from his paws. The last of its magic faded away in gossamer strands that ascended to join the air, like smoke from chimneys.
But there was still one more thing to be done.
Rohane headed for the Altar of Destiny the second Anubits was defeated, unsteady on his feet as his world rocked back and forth, as though he was on a rolling ship at sea. The yellow Blumaroo yanked the Medallion of Wind from its weak chain, which instantly broke and clattered into minute pieces at his feet.
The moment the Medallion touched the Altar, his vision swirled and faded into blackness. The last thing he heard was his name called over and over...
* * *
The streets of Sakhmet bustled again, as though there had never been any strange sandstorms in the first place. There was activity in every corner; a young tourist haggling here, a thief stirring up trouble at a fruit stall there. Everywhere, Sakhmetians talked of the weather simmering down into nothing but sun and a few clouds, and the brave adventurers who had made it all possible.
Andrea absently examined a tawdry necklace of glass beads, barely listening to the Usul shopkeeper insist that it went well with her eyes. The red Kyrii returned it, thanked the rather disappointed shopkeeper absently, and walked on ahead.
“Hey, wait for me.”
Turning around, Andrea saw a green Eyrie trudging after her and stopped in her tracks. It was still a little weird to see her new friend in something much more casual than a brown tunic, and without her usual bow and arrows. “Sorry, Talinia...”
“Are you all right? We could rest somewhere here...”
The Kyrii shook her head. “I’m fine. I don’t need a rest.” She gazed into the distance, where Sakhmet Palace stood.
Talinia gazed with her, shading her amber eyes from the sun.
“Thinking about Reuben?”
“Actually, yes,” Andrea admitted. “How did you know?”
“I just do, judging from how you don’t seem to be enjoying yourself. But he is Rohane’s brother, and he feels that it’s his responsibility to stay behind and lock himself up in the infirmary as well.” Talinia sighed. “I don’t think any of us could convince him to come out, even for a while – we’re all thinking about those two. Reuben will stay until Rohane wakes up, and even then he probably won’t leave till our leader can properly get out of bed.”
“I’m only worrying that Reuben might let himself go for his younger brother’s sake. Remember when he demanded that the healers let him sleep in the room as well? Reuben needs to lighten up; the healers did say Rohane will be fine.”
“I really hope so. I would never forgive myself if he never fully recovered.”
Glancing at the anxious archer, Andrea couldn’t help commenting, “You really look up to him, don’t you?”
Talinia quickly looked away, and said almost defensively, “It’s the same with you and Reuben... isn’t it?”
The red Kyrii wondered if she was turning any redder. “Maybe we should go meet up with Mipsy and Velm now; it’s almost lunchtime, anyway.”
* * *
When Rohane came awake, he found himself staring at nothing but darkness. Sword in paw, he stood up, nearly tripping all over his own feet; everything still hurt. His footsteps made the only sounds, and they echoed as though there were many others walking in that same room – area – wherever he was.
It took only several steps for him to drop to his knees again, taking several deep breaths as pain shot up his legs. His head swam; his heart beat in his throat. There was just something wrong with this place...
And then he heard a new sound.
The voice was weak and possibly in more agony than he was.
“Who’s there?” Rohane called out.
“Help me.” It became louder, a forced, strangled yell.
“Where are you?”
“It hurts,” a second voice chimed in, followed by more.
“I’m being attacked!”
The cries for help increased, creating even more of a dissonance. Each speaker tried to drown out the rest, and the Blumaroo put his paws over his ears, his sword falling with an echoing clang at his feet. He thought he was alone; where were these voices coming from? He felt that it was his duty to do something, but he felt so alone, so helpless... and now it seemed as though the dark void was slowly closing in on him...
And then he was momentarily blinded by a spark of white, somewhere over his head. It shimmered like a guiding star, and it seemed to grow brighter by the minute.
It became someone’s outstretched paw. As Rohane looked up at it, he heard another speaker, who was much more familiar than the rest, filling him with hope... as he reached out to take it...
Rohane opened his eyes.
It took a while for everything to come into focus, but it didn’t take him long to realize that he was no longer at Zakharukh’s Pyramid, the last place he could remember being in. His throat felt drier than sand, and he felt as though he had been bound to a lead weight, despite the fact that he was no longer in armor, but in a simple nightshirt. As he looked around at these new surroundings, he noticed a white Blumaroo seated in an armchair, reading a book.
He tried to say something, but nothing came out but a hoarse moan. Thankfully, that was all it took to get the Blumaroo’s attention.
“Wake up, sleepyhead. It’s been three days.”
And as the book was shut and placed on a nearby table, the yellow Blumaroo couldn’t help wondering if everything was only a dream, or a hallucination. Was he staring back at his older brother? But then again, Reuben was miles away, back in Meridell... how could he have gone to the Lost Desert? Unless this was no longer the Lost Desert... Rohane never felt so disoriented in his life.
“Idiot, it’s me. I’ll explain. Are you really awake?”
It took all of Rohane’s strength just to nod and smile. Now he was positive that his lone visitor was indeed who he thought.
“Good.” Reuben took a deep breath, and his shrewd grin gave way to the concerned expression it masked. “You had me worried sick. I’ve been cooped up in here – by the way, ‘here’ is the Sakhmet Palace infirmary – even though the healers didn’t like it at first. I was waiting for you to finally wake up. If you didn’t... well, I’d rather not think about that. Ugh, look at me, rambling on and on. You can hear me, right?” He sighed, breathing slowly.
The white Blumaroo thought for a moment. “Hang on. I’ll ring for a healer to bring you a glass of water and... what time is it... dinner.” He stood up from his comfy chair, strode toward the door and opened it a crack, only sticking his head out to presumably call for someone and give the order.
Then he was back in his seat.
“It’s going to be a really long story, but since you’ll be in bed for a while, we have time. Let me start from the very beginning...”
But before he could even start, the door flew open again; Reuben had forgotten to lock the door, letting a group of four burst in and stir things up with their cacophony.
“We’re back! Is he –”
“Reuben, look what we –”
“You ought to –”
“Don’t forget to lock –”
Everyone’s voices trailed off suddenly. Four pairs of eyes surveyed the room, moving past the white Blumaroo perched in the armchair toward the bed.
From there, someone stared back at them.
To be continued...