The Time Of Heroes
It was a sunny, horridly hot day. I was lying on my bed, with the window shutters open, trying to let some of the heat escape. All it was doing, though, was letting more in. Wiping a sweaty hand across my forehead, I sat up, blinking several times to clear the heat-haze from my mind. It could really get hot in Brightvale, especially in the summer. I could hear Ajobi, my baby Jubjub, crying in his room, probably hungry. Again.
With a sigh, I heaved myself from my bed and opened the door to Ajobi’s room, the crying sound intensifying. The little boy was in his crib, bawling his eyes out, tiny feet waving in the air, blue hair everywhere.
“Shhhhh, Ajobi, shhhhhhh.” I crooned, picking him and rocking the little baby back and forth, smoothing down his blue-fuzz hair. When I started rocking him, though, he only cried louder. “Are you hungry?” I asked, reaching inside the mini-fridge for a bottle. Frowning, I saw that the thing had broken, making all the milk inside spoil. “Great,” I muttered, slamming the door shut, and feeling around in my pockets for some change. I was going to have to make a trip to the store to pick up some food.
“Daaaaaaaaaaaaad!” Tiihs screamed from the other room. Flaring my nostrils in frustration at the horrid timing of Tiihs, my starry Kau, I screamed back to him
“What, Tiihs?! I’m busy with your brother!”
“The sink isn’t working! And I’m really, really thirsty!” he screamed back at me. By the way his voice sounded, I could tell that he had his head down into the sink, lapping up the last of the water.
“Are you serious?” I said, putting Ajobi under one arm and heading into the kitchen. I wasn’t a very wealthy Neopian, and things in our home were always breaking. And since I didn’t have enough money to buy new ones, I always bought discount items, which eventually broke, forming a nightmare circle of breaking and spending.
When I entered the kitchen, I found my prediction had come true. Tiihs did have his head in the sink, and I could hear his sticky tongue rasping against the worn metal.
“Let me have a look.” I said, gently shoving him out of the way. Placing Ajobi on the counter, I bent down to look under the sink for my tool box. After much rummaging around, I pulled the tiny red tackle-box from the depths of my house-cleaning items with a shout. Opening the box, I found that most of my tools were gone, probably taken by Lyeshi, my split Poogle, into her room to tinker with some invention.
Just as I was getting up to head off to her room, the whole house started to shake.
It only lasted for a few seconds, and afterward, I remember a deathly silence, followed by screaming coming from town.
“Dad!” Tiihs screamed, plowing into me head first. “Dad, what was that?”
“I-I don’t know,” I stammered, rubbing my head. “I’ll go see.”
Getting up, I pushed open our front door, only to see one of the worst things I could imagine: The right tower of Brightvale castle was completely missing, turned into a smoking ruin.
I must have stood at the door for a long time, because pretty soon, Tiihs came running up to me, babbling something or other. But I remember him being cut off short as he looked at the sight of Brightvale Castle.
“What-what...” he said, not able to finish his sentence. I ran back in to grab Ajobi. I turned around back to the door, and there stood Lyeshi, who appeared out of nowhere. She’s like that.
“Dad?” she said in her usual quiet demeanor. “Do you think-”
But I never got to hear what she thought, as I became aware of a rumbling at our doorstep. I went back outside, now smelling faintly of smoke, to find the biggest carriage I’ve ever seen right on our doorstep. The driver was an old Lenny, wearing silver battle armor.
“Get in! Get in!” he screeched. “Brightvale and the surrounding countryside are evacuating the city! I was ordered to help!”
Without thinking much, I hoisted Tiihs and Lyeshi into the cart, and had both of them hold Ajobi while I climbed in. The cart was a large one, full of other Neopians, many looking scared, confused, or a fusion of both.
“Wait!” screeched Lyeshi. She jumped out of the cart and bounded back into the house. A few seconds later, she came running out with a small box in her hands.
“Our spells,” she whispered, seeing the look that I was giving her. I had to admit, though, she was a good thinker. If what the Lenny driver had said was true, we would need to defend ourselves some way or another.
I nodded, and the driver set off. The cart ride was bumpy, and everyone was silent, eyes glued to Brightvale Castle. Why would anyone bomb us? Brightvale had no quarrel with anyone, and we were on the most peaceful nations, one of knowledge and books. So who?
I noticed that my skin was starting to get wet, and looking up, I saw large storm clouds rolling in from the east, probably off the coast of Mystery Island.
“The rain tarp’s in the back!” the driver yelled at us, and several people got up to fetch it. I helped put up the post around the cart, finding the right notching for each of the old wooden planks. A huge clap of thunder went off in the distance, followed by a streak of lightning. That’s when it started raining in earnest. Huge sheets of water threw themselves down at us. With a grunt up effort, we managed to pull the tarp up and over us before the worst of the rain got in.
“Dad,” Lyeshi whispered, her little eyes looking out a hole in the tarp. “Look.” She moved out of the way, and I put my eye to the hole. Through the age-battered tarp, I saw the smoldering towers of Brightvale castle, with swarms of soldiers flying around it. I saw smoke rising in the rain-filled air, and the thunder mourning its loss. Lightning flew through the clouds, electrical veins of the thunder-storm. The sight took my breath away. It was even worse than before.
I pulled away from the hole, and realized that I was crying. I had grown up in Brightvale, and had lived there all my life, only leaving it a few times. My world revolved around this little one, and it would quite possibly be destroyed in the war that was sure to come with whoever had done this. Almost all the nations in Neopia were stronger than we, and little old Brightvale wouldn’t hold out long under a siege.
Something was heaving against my side. I looked over, and saw that it was Tiihs. I held him tight against me, petting his starry-night fur, and comforted him while he cried. Lyeshi joined us after a while, not crying, but looking around sadly. She was never one to cry. Just a quiet, withdrawn little girl.
“The-the games...” Tiihs sniffed. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve and asked him what he was talking about. “The Altador Cup,” he said. “We had just signed up for Brightvale team, and now we probably won’t even get to play.”
“Oh, Tiihs,” I said, as I remembered the games. It was to be Tiihs's first year at the Colosseum, and he had been looking forward to seeing me play for months. He was right. Brightvale team probably wouldn’t be participating this year, as the whole city would be busy working on repairing the castle... and fighting.
Eventually, the rain quit, but the sun didn’t come out. The heavy clouds hung over Brightvale like a bleak reminder that everything was about to change. A little while after the rain stopped, the cart did the same. We lifted the tarp, and saw that we were surrounded by thick, green woods. The night-time air was filled with lightning bugs, and the chirping of crickets. It all seemed so peaceful, out here in the woods...
“You!” My sight-seeing session in the woods was cut short by the Lenny-driver, who was pointing a feathered wing in my direction. “Will you mind going out and help collect fire-wood? We’re going to need one tonight.” And he was right. Already, I could feel the air getting colder, nipping at my exposed skin.
“You bet,” I said, starting to walk off into the woods. “Tiihs!” I called, looking back. “Watch over your brother! Lyeshi, come with me, please!” She nodded, and Tiihs started to complain about babysitting... again. I told him off, and started into the woods.
Lyeshi soon joined my side, with a lantern in her mouth. I picked it up with a brief thanks, and started picking up sticks. Lyeshi and I didn’t talk much, but then, we never did. She was a smart, quiet teenager, seeing everything, very observant. I didn’t need words to know what she was thinking, though.
“...Yeah,” she mumbled, picking up a twig. “It’s just...”
“Just,” she said, heaving a huge sigh. “Just that I don’t think that anyone did... that.”
“What? Bombed Brightvale Castle?”
“How could no-one attack us?” I asked, confused. She never said things straight. Always spoke in riddles. My neighbor nicknamed her “Oracle.”
“Exactly. Maybe it was a-”
We whipped around to find that a huge branch had just fallen to the ground. I looked up, and saw a cloaked figure hopping tree branches. In the failing light, I couldn’t make him out very well, but Lyeshi could.
“That way!” she whispered, running off in pursuit. Although she didn’t run off. The young Poogle simply melted away into the woods, an orange and purple shadow gliding along the ground. I followed her, or rather the signs she left behind. She was clever enough to know that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, so once every ten meters or so, she broke off a branch, or a scratched something into a tree. It was in this manner that I almost fell over her, as she had abruptly stopped in front of a dark clearing.
“Watch out!” she hissed, eyes turned to the clearing. “Look!”
The cloaked person was in the center, standing in front of a very, very tall ice Draik.
“The deed has been done, my lord,” the cloaked figure said. His voice was as icy as the Draiks, and as cold.
“Gooooood,” the Draik hissed, smiling. “Vvvveeerrryyy good.” I noticed that he had a slight accent. “Doooooo they... ssssussspect?”
“No,” the cloaked figure said. “Although... two of the Brightvalians have followed us here.”
I gasped. It had been a trap!
That’s when the ice Draik looked right into my eyes.
“Run!” I screamed to Lyeshi, but she was already gone, melted away. I turned around to follow her, but found myself unable to move. Cloak Man came and plucked me off the ground with ease, slowly carrying me back to the clearing. I noticed that he smelled like silver coins... and something else that I just couldn’t put my finger on. I knew that it would drive me nuts if I didn’t figure it out.
“Ssssooooo...” Draik said, inspecting me. “What made you think that you could... folllllow usssss here? Hm?” He smiled a wicked smile. “It'sssss verrry ruuuuude to pry into otherssssss’ businessss.”
“Why did you bomb us?” I said fiercely. At least that’s what I intended. My voice actually came out as a high-pitched squeak, like that of a child. Draik recoiled in mock surprise, then laughed again.
“Weeeeellllll,” he said. “Right to the point! I like that in a person.” He pronounced the word “Point” very clearly lightly, like a cat playing with a caught mouse, right before he killed it.
“If you musssssst know,” he hissed. “It’sssss because I’m sick of both of you!” He screamed out the last part of the sentence, changing from his cool, icy self to boiling mad in a second.
“Both of us? What do you mean?”
“You Brightvalians, and those fools in Meridell. You constantly twitter and argue, and...”
“What? You can’t just hate us for being there,” I said, trying to buy some time. C'mon, Lyeshi! I thought. Get some help!
“No,” Draik said, cooling down once again. “I hate you... because both of you killed my entire family! Now...” he said, boiling back up, “both kingdomsssss will perissssssh in the following war! Revenge isssss ssssweet!”
“Why are we going to war with Meridell?” I hissed.
“Because,” Draik said, staring at my eyes, “both of you will think that the other bombed their castle.” He said it so calmly... so... so... icily, that it set something off inside me. Apparently, his family had been executed by both kingdoms, and he was prepared to kill thousands of people, just to justify that deed. Maybe his family didn’t deserve to die, but neither did hundreds of other innocents.
“And you,” Cloak Man said, grabbing my shoulder. “You just had to interfere. You see, my master... sometimes he can’t keep his mouth shut. And since he told you everything...” He turned to Draik. “You will die.” He drew a short knife from his cloak, catching the moonlight on its wickedly curved blade. Slowly he raised it up to my neck...
...and dropped it as a heavy object plowed into his side. Cloak Man doubled over, and the freezing spell that I was under broke.
“Let's go!” Lyeshi yelled at me, and ran off into the woods. This time, she stayed alongside me, making sure that I didn’t get captured... again. After a while, we lost the cursing Cloak Man, and burst back into the clearing.
I blinked, hard. Sunlight was streaming down everywhere, and everyone was asleep, curled up beside each other in a huge pile.
“Lyeshi?” I asked, staring at everyone. “How long was I in the woods for?”
“A-a few minutes,” she whispered, looking around. Surely night couldn’t end in just a few minutes? But what if Cloak Man had sped up time? He must have done something. I just felt it.
Suddenly, I became aware of the flapping of hundreds of wings. Looking up, I saw the Draik Army Royal flying over our small clearing.
The whole army.
“Oh, no. No. No!” I whispered. “We were too late!” Lyeshi nodded. I looked down to find Tiihs looking up, right beside me.
“What’s happening?” he breathed, taking in the sight.
“We’re at war,” Lyeshi said, looking sadly up at the sky.
“Are you sure you’re going to be O.K.?” Tiihs asked, looking skeptically at the spell book.
“No,” I answered, tightening the straps of my sword hilt for the hundredth time. I combed my hand through my hair, and once again, checked to make sure that my sword was strapped on.
“We’re going to have to do it soon,” Lyeshi said, also looking at the spell book, “or the Time spell won’t work.”
“Right,” I said. “Right. Let's... let's go.” I took a deep breath, and counted to five. Lyeshi was the best spell-caster out of all of us, and I knew that I should trust her, but magic always made me queasy. Especially when I had to stop Cloak Man if the spell actually worked.
“...Fanyora yionginord nis fa lude ti-sandre!” Lyeshi finished. Nothing happened for a few seconds.
“Maybe she should try it agai-” Tiihs started, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, the world began to twist and blur. I looked up, and saw the Draik Army Royal flying backwards, and the sun going down, and the moon coming up, and the people shivering in the night. My legs went in reverse, and I was crashing through the woods, watching the clearing get farther and farther away. Then I was back in the other clearing, and Lyeshi was backing into the woods, and the Cloak Man was putting the knife away...
...the cart was rolling backwards...
...Tiihs calling for help on the sink...
...getting the morning paper...
...Time stopped. Then, slowly, it started moving forward. Gradual at first, then faster and faster, until it came into normal time. I blinked, and looked around at yesterday morning. I checked my watch-7:45. I had to get going. Shaking my head, I set off at a sprint towards Brightvale Castle, which wasn’t very far away. Once I arrived, I looked around in the woods, and saw nothing. I kept looking for an hour, and was becoming increasingly desperate, when I looked up.
There he was.
No. There was no way I could climb that tower. I couldn’t.
But I had to.
I grabbed the first white-washed stone, and then the second. And the third. Footholds weren’t hard to find, due the uneven placing of the bricks. After several minutes, I stopped, panting, and looked down. The ground was a looooong way away.
I kept climbing.
After half an hour, I reached the top. A quick sweep revealed that Cloak Man was gone. I had failed. He had already set the bomb...The bomb! Franticly, I looked around again, and spotted it. I jogged over the large, red glowing Super Nova... But I was crawling. Time was slowing down. I kept going, needing to get to the bomb... But I couldn’t. It was like moving through molasses. As the spell wore off, my time was calling me back, starting to tighten my time-line. I gave one last push, and reached the nova. I tore it off and threw it off the tower, just as Time started to reel me back in...
This is my first Neopian Times story! I hope that you like it!