Another Hero's Journey: Decisions - Part Twelve
The Halloween Kougra took a good look at his audience. “Hang on; I thought there were only four honorary Lost Desert Riders recognized today.”
Andrea and Reuben stepped away from the group.
“Oh, I see.” The Kougra faced the rest. “Yes... you are the ones we need. Don’t worry, this ship will take us to the Haunted Woods faster than you can say –”
“Hold up.” Rohane held up a paw. “Take us to the Haunted Woods? What for? And who are you?”
“I am Avedis, and you must be their leader,” was the icy response. “And you’re probably at least five years younger than my little sister. Didn’t you hear? Oh, that’s right. The Lost Desert was too busy celebrating how they’re finally sandstorm-free to hear about the fiasco over in the Haunted Woods. But yes, it hasn’t made the Neopian Times yet.”
“Being sandstorm-free is good, you know,” said Velm.
“What fiasco in the Haunted Woods?” Talinia asked.
“Well... how do I put it? Listen, I can’t tell you about it here. You never know who could be watching your every move.”
Mipsy shook her head. “I haven’t known Reuben and Andrea for too long either, but they’re trustworthy folk.”
Avedis glared at the blue Acara. “Not them, I’m talking about others who won’t want our mission to succeed. We’re wasting time. Get on board. By the way...” He paused to look at the excluded pair. “This is a private ride, I’m sorry. Anyway, back to you four, you’ll be briefed there. The fate of the Haunted Woods... rests in your hands. But I’ll give you a few minutes.” He raised his paws again.
The Lost Desert Riders – and Reuben and Andrea – huddled.
“Well, we’ll be nomads again, it seems,” said Mipsy. “So much for our plan to head home... or our plan to visit Faerieland.”
“He sounds desperate,” Talinia observed. “And looks like he knows what he’s doing.”
“If this is a hoax, this is the most elaborate one I’ve ever seen – or heard,” said Rohane. “Avedis is most probably telling the truth, and if he’s not, we’re more than ready for it...” His voice trailed off, and he glanced at his sibling, who was gawping at them as though they had told him to go coat himself in molasses and Weewoo feathers.
Reuben blinked several times. “What in the name of...”
“I know. It’s another one. I guess we won’t be able to come home with you two after all. It’s crazy, but something’s telling me that this is serious, that we should really go.” The yellow Blumaroo sighed, crossing his arms and staring down at the ground.
“And if it’s not serious, we get to teach them a lesson,” Velm quipped, giving Mipsy a high five.
“We’ll miss you two. It’s been awesome. We hope to see you again sometime,” said Talinia, hugging Reuben and Andrea. “Ironically, on our first day as Riders, we get a job that doesn’t even have anything to do with the Lost Desert at all.”
Andrea nodded as she broke away from the green Eyrie. “Yes. I wish you four only the best of luck on your travels. But do write to us; we’ll be in Meridell. Sure, I might rove around a bit with my aunt, since she’s a nature seer and all, but I’ll always find a way, like through Reuben.”
“That would be nice,” said Mipsy as the Kyrii embraced her and the red Techo healer as well.
Meanwhile, Reuben had remained silent, and walked to the edge of the pier, gazing down at his reflection in the gently rippling sea. The other white Blumaroo gazed back with an expression just as forlorn, before he was joined by another, equally forlorn Blumaroo.
“I’m really, really sorry, Reuben.”
“It’s not your fault.” He straightened up and focused in the distance, where the Haunted Woods lay. “I could explain to Mother and everyone else... and the Kougra – Avedis – did say it’ll hit the Times, right? But yeah, I’ll miss you... again.” Reuben shuddered and disguised a sniff behind a cough.
Rohane placed an arm around his big brother’s shoulder and tried to grin. “Some build so that others may destroy. Some destroy so that others may build, remember? Looks like I’m off to do more destroying, right? And I mean the good kind.”
They were quiet for a while, examining their reflections. Before the yellow Blumaroo could speak again, Reuben broke the quietude.
“You do what you have to do, and I’m off to do more building while I wait for you to come back. It’s like a cycle, and it won’t work without both... the both of us. I know where my place is.”
The warrior nodded to the smith.
“Till then... have fun, I guess?”
“You too. And don’t forget to write this time.”
They hugged tightly, and for a moment, it was as if they were alone in the world, two brothers walking different yet complementary paths that crossed once, and would begin diverging again.
“Uh, Rohane, did anyone ever tell you that your bone-crushing hugs are becoming even more bone-crushing?”
“Look who’s talking; I can barely breathe.”
* * *
Exactly one week had passed since Andrea and Reuben returned to the village of Trestin.
The first thing Reuben did – besides get deluged in a huge group hug the very second he set foot in his house – was check how his business had fared while he was gone. The white Blumaroo observed that there was a slight slump – probably due to his absence, but one that he knew he wouldn’t have any trouble getting out of. Then he and the red Kyrii related all their escapades to their families over a hot dinner, as their letters still hadn’t arrived – although telling them that Rohane and his comrades were far from coming home was a bit hard.
Still, it went better than they hoped. Melissa was a little teary, but she had long accepted the fact that her younger son was now a veritable adventurer, and smiled not long after. Now, Reuben made his way to the back door, stretching his arms. It would take him a while to get used to his work schedule again.
“Where are you going, dear?”
He turned to see his mother, who was carrying a big bowl of salad. “I’ll just be out back... taking a breather. You can call me when dinner’s ready.”
The older white Blumaroo nodded, and Reuben threw open the door, taking in the vibrant sky. He was just in time; the sun was beginning to set, adding red and gold to the blue and purple color scheme laid out before him. He could have sworn that there was a star already twinkling a good distance away from the fiery disk.
A purple Lupe turned around at the sound of his footsteps on the grass. “Ah, Reuben.”
“Hello, Miss Olivia,” he greeted her. Somehow, he couldn’t help but sit down beside her. She was cross-sitting just beneath a tree, probably also watching the sunset with that faraway glint in her eyes.
“You know,” Reuben began, “I still remember the first thing you told me, about me having a different destiny. That was when I thought I could chase my little brother as he hunted down Ramtor, right?”
“Everyone has destinies,” was the equally faraway answer. “They must find them, and shape them, for our destinies are linked to our decisions. The sunset tells me that you have truly, definitely decided on your path. You have dealt with the change well, but remember that things are always changing. Nature itself doesn’t hold one form; it constantly shifts with the passage of time.”
“Yeah, I’ll have to agree with that.”
Olivia smiled. “The same rings true for Rohane. His future... yes, he walks down the road to becoming a hero. However, eventually he must face new obstacles more powerful and terrible than anything he has ever fought, and through that, prove himself... in fact, there seems to be one particular obstacle lying in wait that he must watch out for...”
“In the Haunted Woods?” Reuben guessed.
The Lupe let out a long breath as if she had been running. In the light of the sun dipping into the horizon, she looked several years older than she really was.
“Alas, the Sight is both a blessing and a curse; we can indeed peer into the future by some means or another, yet we can never see the complete picture. It only comes to us in snatches and bits. Not even faeries can grasp the entire future; no one can. Nebulous as it may be, it waits for us, and it will come when it is ready.” She stood up and brushed some dirt and grass from her robes. “You remember what I had my niece tell you?”
He tapped his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Some build so that others may destroy. Some destroy so that others may build.”
“Keep that in mind, young one.” And with that, she walked back into the house. In the dim light, Olivia looked more like she was gliding over the grass.
That left Reuben alone to watch as the sun slowly sank, and patches of darker purple spread throughout the heavens. He couldn’t help grinning to himself, as though congratulating himself on a job well done.
He rummaged through his mind for his memories of his trip to the Lost Desert. It seemed so distant... and yet, it felt like only yesterday. He had indeed seen Rohane again, saw that the valiant yellow Blumaroo was indeed still alive, and it had given him hope once again. Reuben even got to meet his younger brother’s comrades, and knew that he could trust Rohane with them, and vice-versa. Everything culminated in a rather emotional scene, with everyone taking their time to say their goodbyes despite the complaints of that Halloween Kougra – what was his name – Avedis. Then Reuben and Andrea stood on the pier, watching the ship sail away and waving till it was nothing more than a speck over the vast sea.
Reuben was glad he had made that decision, even if it did have to be sorted out first. In the end, it was worth it.
And Andrea... he had thanked Andrea over and over again for coming with him, and knew that he had also made the right decision to take her along. He knew that she was probably somewhere inside, writing another story by a window – or maybe drawing this time. He chuckled at the thought of her sketching him out as he sat there on a tussock, gazing at the darkening sky...
“There you are, Reuben.”
“Don’t scare me like that!” He leapt to his feet and whipped around in one swift motion. The red Kyrii only giggled, covering her mouth demurely with her Tide Princess notepad.
“I’m sorry. Miss Melissa told me to call you in for dinner. By the way... I’m working on a new story tonight. It’s sort of related to the legend of the Medallion of Wind. Oh, have they sent any letters yet?”
Reuben didn’t have to ask who “they” was. “Well, it’s only been one week; they might still be traveling or something. But they will. I’m sure of it.”
Andrea gave him a warm smile. “It’s good to see the old optimistic Reuben again.”
“Well, the last thing I told Rohane before I actually said goodbye to him was to keep on writing. And that’s an order from the big brother.”
“He’s pretty stubborn, you know. He always tells me how he never listens to you.”
And the Kyrii giggled as she sprinted toward the back door, Reuben hot on her heels. A northerly wind carried their laughter up to the night sky, where more stars were beginning to appear.