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A Hero's Journey: Another Dream, Another Decision


by precious_katuch14

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Morning sunlight shone into the window, illuminating the face of the yellow Blumaroo who slumbered. The blankets were pulled all the way up to his chin, and even as the glow danced upon him, he remained in Dreamland, the slow rhythm of his breathing the only sound that could be heard.

     Morning sunlight continued its relentless assault. He retaliated by turning away from the source and curling up so that now only his ears were visible from under the covers.

     Morning sunlight succeeded at last – or perhaps Dreamland had enough of him. Or he had enough of Dreamland.

     He kicked his blankets aside with a yawn, revealing that he had slept in his shirt and trousers instead of changing into appropriate nightwear, but didn't get up from the bed. After a few moments – which may have stretched to an hour or more – of simply lying on his back and staring at the ceiling as if waking up in his own quarters was the most surreal thing in the world, the Blumaroo reached out toward his bedside table and took the letter that lay beside its corresponding envelope. Both were emblazoned with the red, gold and blue Meridellian seal, which was so bright that he blinked a few times before rereading the letter for the umpteenth time.

     Not that rereading changed what it said. Not that he expected the message to change. Not that he wanted it to. The flowing, even script would never wriggle and crawl all over the paper to create new words no matter how many times he stared at it.

     It is with great pleasure that we welcome you back to the Kingdom of Meridell, and thank you and your comrades once again for liberating us, and for your services to all of Neopia. We join Terror Mountain, the Lost Desert, the Haunted Woods and Faerieland in recognizing your heroic deeds and just victories.

     Without further ado, we would like to formally present you at last to King Skarl and his court on the third day of the Month of Storing, to be inducted as a knight among the ranks of our kingdom's honorable army.

     This will serve as your family and friends' invitation.

     Long live Meridell!

     The Blumaroo folded up the letter and stashed it into the envelope once again. To be a knight... it had been his lifelong dream, a dream he had temporarily exchanged for an adventure that led to a series of quests around the world and encounters he would never forget. But he didn't regret any of it in the end, despite being through so much these past two years. All the sleepless nights, the fierce battles, the wrong turns and the tedious walks were worth the exhilaration he felt journeying with his trusted comrades to save land after land from various forms of danger and evil.

     He would have so many stories to tell for a long time, he knew, as he rose from the bed and stretched his arms, which were strengthened by combat experience that could never be obtained from any school or mentor. When he passed by the full-length mirror, he paused to take a good look at himself.

     When he left the village of Trestin, the warrior had been a sixteen-year-old molded by formal training in his youth that was eventually replaced by self-taught lessons. Though hardly naïve, his younger self was still a far cry from his present persona. Now, the reflection in the mirror was that of a seasoned, more well-built eighteen-year-old, though lithe and slender compared to the stocky, solid fighter stereotype. His dark eyes had a new depth to them, as if they had seen so much in just a short span of time; he thought it was a wiser glint, or at least, a more watchful one. He shrugged shoulders that were noticeably broader, and examined his hands – sprinkled with many fine scars and calluses that marked him as a sophisticated swordsman.

     He always saw this reflection and his progress from an overeager youngster to someone hailed as a champion wherever he went, but it was entirely different seeing it in his own mirror, in his own bedroom, in his own house...

     A knock snapped him out of his morning reverie, and the image of his sixteen-year-old self sank back into his unconscious, as if leaving it all up to the yellow Blumaroo of eighteen years. Several more knocks ensued, and he crossed the room to open the door.

     Another Blumaroo stood in the threshold; white, slightly older, slightly bigger, slightly more dramatic, and smirking.

     “You slept in again, idiot. Don't you know what time it is?” Instead of waiting for an answer, he produced a pocket watch from his crimson vest. “Close to lunchtime. Are you still making up for all that sleep you lost?”

     He got quite an impressive yawn in reply.

     “And you didn't even change out of your clothes. What's wrong with you?”

     “There's nothing wrong with me, Reuben,” the yellow Blumaroo responded, rolling his eyes.

     “That was a rhetorical question, my dear little brother.” Reuben sighed, examining his watch. His smirk was gone, replaced with a concerned expression, the polar opposite of a smirk. “It's been happening ever since you got the letter. I know you stay awake just thinking about becoming a knight. Shouldn't you be over the moon now that the opportunity to become a knight is just around the corner... Sir Rohane?”

     Silence. A scuffing of bare feet against the floor.

     “Of course I'm over the moon! I mean... you know how I feel,” said Rohane, glancing briefly over his shoulder at the envelope on his bedside table, just under the lamp.

     “But... why waste several nights you could've used to catch up on sleep? What's on your mind?”

     “Nothing's on my mind.” The answer was quick – too quick.

     Reuben shook his head and leaned forward, almost conspiratorially. “I know something's on your mind. You know, it'll help if you - ”

     But before he could finish, the yellow Blumaroo strode past him. “I'm getting lunch. What about you?”

     * * *

     Morning sunlight shone down on the shop and smithy beside the house, both closed. The rays didn't reach Reuben, who was inside the smithy taking inventory of all the tools and materials still on hand. It was a boring job, but he didn't want to take any chances. Commissions and customizations of all shapes and sizes were pouring in these days. He wondered if he should open his shop on weekends as well.

     Morning sunlight greeted him when he came out at last, reflected off the dagger he unsheathed and inspected. He nodded; the white Blumaroo was proud of his handiwork.

     Morning sunlight followed him onto the field at the back, where someone else was already practicing various battle stances and movements with a sword that wove silver beams effortlessly into Reuben's sight. He approached, drawing another dagger, and when he was only a couple of steps away, he lunged forward.

     Rohane was hardly caught off-guard. He whipped around sharply, and a single blade met two shorter ones with a resounding clang that echoed all around them, a well-rounded note that hung in the air before dissipating. Disengaging, he leaped back, circling his opponent. Reuben was at the ready too, taking careful steps and unmindful of the grass he crushed beneath his feet. He made the first move again, his left dagger close to his chest for defense, and his right dagger seeking an opening. There was one, and he attempted to knock the sword out of his younger sibling's grasp – only to fail with a backwards fall. Now Reuben used both knives to block the crescent sketched out by the longer weapon before sheathing them, rolling to his right and standing up again.

     “You've been slacking off,” he taunted. “That was weak - ” His words were cut off by an ambush that culminated in a single dagger spinning in midair before landing with a soft thump onto the ground. It didn't matter; the white Blumaroo had four more on his person, not including the dagger still in his right hand, which danced gracefully, almost as if following a song, as it entwined itself with the sword. They were locked together in a struggle as each warrior tried to force the other to submit; a test not just of physical prowess but also of wits, of spirits.

     “You were saying?”

     Reuben grinned. “Now this is more like you. Your... usual... stubborn... self!” With that last word, he gave an almighty shove and broke the link between the two blades, and for a moment Rohane seemed to be thrown off balance. Reuben then rushed forward, bringing out a smaller knife and making synchronized chopping motions with both his weapons...

     ...only to find out that the yellow Blumaroo had been pretending all along and stuck out a foot to trip him.

     “You tricked me!” Reuben declared as he skidded into the grass he had been stomping on a few moments ago. But he promptly flipped over in time to parry an incoming strike with a growl and a clash of steel against steel. Just as he was about to get up, he found himself gazing down at a dagger whose hilt was emblazoned with a cursive R and gripped tightly in Rohane's hand – obviously retrieved sometime during the match. The point was a few inches shy of his throat.

     Reuben chuckled; he had been brought down by his own dagger. A twist of fate. Then again, twists of fate had been responsible for the life his little brother led for more than two years.

     “You'd make a fine knight, you know. A very fine knight.”

     Rohane stared; sweat beaded his forehead, and he slowly lowered the dagger with which he had won the duel. He couldn't help but smile a little.

     “You really think so?”

     “Idiot, how many times have I told you that?” Reuben laughed as he got back onto his feet, brushing his trousers after sheathing his weapons, including the dagger returned to him. “You've got more knight quality in your little finger than a lot of the brutes over at Meridell Castle, but don't tell them I told you that, okay?” He grinned crookedly. “Seriously, just... just go on already and be a knight! If that's what you've been bouncing around in that head of yours, you've got a memory problem!”

     “Huh?”

     “Mother and I – and Father too, if he were here – want you to chase after your dream. Are you thinking that because you're here now, we want to tie you down to Trestin forever?”

     * * *

     Morning sunlight accompanied the two brothers as they sat down under a tree some distance away from the verdant expanse they used as their training grounds only several minutes ago.

     Morning sunlight couldn't reach them under the wide canopy of leafy branches. Reuben leaned back against the trunk, with his arms cushioning his head, and looked out into the horizon at the invisible boundary where the village of Trestin ended and the real wilderness began. The mountains reached for the sky silently, as if begging for the same morning sunlight that graced the Blumaroos – or at least, tried to. It was pretty shady under the tree, after all.

     Morning sunlight never had to talk about its dreams or its decisions.

     “I've been thinking.”

     “I know. All of us think at least once or twice in a day.”

     “Very funny, Reuben. I've been thinking about this...”

     “You don't have to tell any of us you want to become a knight. It's written all over your face ever since the day the entourage came calling and gave you that letter. You were practically glowing, Rohane. Glowing.”

     Rohane broke what could have been a steady banter between brothers by taciturnly twiddling his thumbs for a bit. “Okay. It was foolish of me to think that I could hide it.” He picked up a fallen leaf, still green and fresh enough to be returned to its respective branch if that were possible. “You and Mother were so happy to see me again... and, Father didn't have to move all of us to the castle to be a knight. But...”

     “You're a born adventurer,” Reuben finished for him. “Father was content to stay in Trestin and wait for King Skarl to call him out for a mission. And he had us to take care of.”

     “That's true... but if he could stay here... then...”

     “I know we both dreamed of becoming like him when we were little, but it doesn't change the fact that we're also different. Knighthood wasn't for me, so I decided to go make weapons instead. And who knows? Somewhere in the future, a whole bunch of new adventures are lined up, waiting for you to embark on them. I know we'll miss you when you move to Central Meridell or leave for another quest, but...” The white Blumaroo shrugged, grinning and staring up at the leaves overhead. He chuckled. “We'll get used to it. It would be horrible for us to bind you here when you're obviously made for traveling.

     “So, I guess what I'm trying to say here is... it's your call. If you think you're being called to live down south away from all these mountains once you're knighted, and if you're itching for another adventure... then we'll stay here, waiting for you to come see us.” He winked. “Just don't forget to visit and tell us everything, and it's a done deal.”

     “Is there a catch?” asked Rohane skeptically, crossing his arms.

     Reuben let out a laugh. “What kind of brother do you think I am?”

     “The sly, scheming one.” Like dissipating gray clouds revealing the bright turquoise sky and the shining sun, the atmosphere of their conversation was soon taking a more lighthearted turn. The knight-to-be laughed as well, and said, “I think things too much, do I? It comes with having to outline several battle strategies while on the road.”

     “Yes, you do. So loosen up. Villains won't be breathing down your back and watching your any move... for now, at least.”

The End

 
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