Another Hero's Journey: Dreams - Part Six
The morning sun streamed in through the stained glass windows, each one a different scene from Meridell’s history, and cast colored shadows upon the gathering crowd in the throne room, composed of nobles and commoners alike. The place buzzed with excited whispers and eager conversation, but it all died down at the sound of the first trumpet. It was closely followed by several more, and two footmen hurriedly began rolling out a long, red carpet.
He stood there at the entrance, feeling the sweat roll off his back and head. All outside noise seemed strangely muffled, thanks to the huge helm completely obscuring his face. But he had to admit, it was getting pretty stuffy inside, and he felt quite heavy as the rest of the armor weighed him down uncomfortably. The sword he carried was also a burden, and he wanted so badly to just drop it on the floor and do without it – but of course, he risked dropping the infernal thing on his foot. His other paw was occupied too, by a shield that was probably more like a lead weight.
A nudge from someone he could barely see urged him to walk, taking tottering step after another as he clutched the sword and shield, trying to recall what his late father used to remind him. They seemed to get heavier and heavier as he went on, amidst the muted cheers – or jeers, possibly; it was hard to tell. A chill raced up his spine, which was saying something, as the armor he wore was sweltering.
He pulled back the visor from his face – and found himself staring at two carpeted paths. It was like a fork in the road, only the branches were velvety, red and bordered with fine gold thread. All the onlookers were gone, and everything was eerily silent, but there was something vague at the end of the path on his left that looked almost like the throne if he squinted and tilted his head a bit.
The silence was broken by a single word.
He felt something clamp down on his right shoulder plate, and he dropped the massive blade – which thankfully missed his foot – and shield on impulse. Though steel bit into his shoulder, there was something assuring about that touch. And the voice... the voice clinched it. It was so familiar, and yet, for some reason or another, he couldn’t put his finger on the identity of the speaker...
“Brother!” the mysterious entity called again, louder and more insistent.
He turned towards the source – and found nothing. Still, the word echoed in his ears, as though coming from inside his helm.
He opened his mouth to answer, to call back. But he couldn’t find the words; they would not sound. He tried again; nothing. I’m here, he wanted to say. I’m here... wait for me...
But why couldn’t he?
Suddenly, everything began to blur like one of those chilly, foggy mornings. And it didn’t stop there, it was as if the entire scene was dissolving before his very eyes, and the voice spoke no more. Instead, the ringing quiet had returned, bringing with it an overcast sky, carpets stained black... and eventually, all that he could see was black... the throne, his oversized weapons, and the diverging carpeted roads were gone...
Reuben opened his eyes.
His room was dark, and once he pulled his silver watch out of his pocket, he had to squint in order to read the time. Both hands were on the 11, and he realized only then that he was still wearing the same outfit he had at the banquet. The white Blumaroo sat up slowly, groped for the candlestick and matches on his bedside table, and decided to shed some light on his situation.
Candle alight, Reuben reached for his bag next and pulled out his unfinished bow. After a bit more digging, he found his whittling knife. Somehow, the sound of metal scraping against wood, and the sight of patterns taking shape upon its surface and tiny shavings fluttering onto the floor eased him, as on top of his thoughts about his brother and the knighting ceremony the following day, there was the dream he had. Did it mean something? Or was it, like any other dream, brought about by everything he was worrying about coming together like a mismatched jigsaw puzzle?
He wanted to go back to sleep, but he couldn’t, and his paws continued working on the bow. For a fleeting moment, his mind pondered if he had remembered to bring any bowstring, but he just as quickly shifted back to worrying about whatever he had been worrying a while ago. What became of Rohane and Mipsy after that stranger led them away? Were they... still alive, even?
Reuben shook his head, and tiny candle lights blurred his vision for a second. I must have faith. Have faith...
My mother would probably kill me if she saw me right now, working in the middle of the night with only a candle for light, he thought, in an attempt to amuse himself. But it didn’t do any good; it simply reminded him of Harold bringing the message to Trestin, which was now miles away. They will be happy... Mother would be happy, and she’d tell me Father and Rohane would be too. So would Tala, and Li, and Seth, and everyone else who’ll be coming. Maybe they’ll even tell Andrea...
But what about me? I don’t feel happy at all...
The blade hovered over the bow, a fraction of an inch away from where he was already engraving a cursive R, incorporating it into the intricate design of twining vines and feathered wings.
I should be happy. When I was a kid, I always dreamed of becoming a knight, and I even worked hard for it. My parents and practically everyone I know supported that dream. In less than twelve hours, it’ll come true. I will be a knight, like my father, like I’ve always wanted.
The knife was about to touch the bow again when Reuben paused yet again, staring into space.
Is that what I really want now?
It dawned on him... even though it was almost midnight outside. The Blumaroo glanced down at his bow, watching the R blend into the design he had carved, and then pulled his watch out again, balancing the bow neatly on his lap. Fifteen minutes had passed since the last time he consulted it. He pocketed it again.
Do I really want to become a knight?
Well, maybe I did when I was little... but now... I’m not even sure.
Reuben found himself chuckling at this – almost maniacally. Strange... knighthood seemed so far away back then... and now, now that it’s within my reach... it’s like I don’t want it, like I don’t care... it’s ironic, really. Maybe Rohane would still accept it, but... not me.
The blade was back on the bow, and once again, his quarters were filled with the sounds of grating and the gentle cascading of tiny chips, which created a small pile of wood shavings at his feet. All these relaxed him, drove all those worries from his head even for a few fleeting moments...
Suddenly, he found himself placing his things aside on the bedside table, brushing the little shavings off his lap. He strode towards the door, locking it behind him and stashing the key with his watch. There was something he had to see...
Reuben jumped and turned around, almost tripping all over his own feet as he backed away from the hulking fire Scorchio with a huge mace standing outside his quarters. Brett’s replacement towered over the Blumaroo by at least a head, and his weapon was probably as large as Reuben’s head, too.
“You’re... Arvine, I presume?”
“At your service,” said the Scorchio, in a less gruff, more formal tone that was incongruous to his thuggish appearance. Reuben didn’t know what surprised him more; seeing the new guard, or hearing him speak. “What’s wrong?”
“I just... uh, want to... check something out. No, nothing’s wrong, don’t worry...”
“Perhaps I could come with you?” Arvine offered.
Shaking his head, the white Blumaroo suggested, “Umm... I have a better idea. You can stay here in case anyone tries to break in. I swear, this isn’t anything bad; I only want to see the throne room.”
“Well... you can ask the guards there. That is, if they’re still awake. You know where it is? And... why do you want to see it at this time? It’s almost midnight.”
“I thought a good walk would do me some good; I can’t fall asleep,” answered Reuben. If he elaborated further his exact intentions, Arvine probably wouldn’t understand. “Thank you very much, kind sir!” He took several steps back, recalling the way he, Harold and Brett had taken, before turning around and walking down the dark corridors, with only the flickering shadows cast by the dim torches for company. His heart almost leapt out of his throat when he saw the two Draik guards posted at the ornately-carved double doors leading to the throne room, or the main hall of the castle, before he realized that he had nothing to fear.
The left Draik stretched out his arms and placed his spear against the wall, but his companion seemed fast asleep. “Ah, Reuben of Trestin, I presume?” the conscious guard asked, bowing low. “Pardon my curiosity, but what brings you here this late?”
“I thought... I’d step inside the throne room for a while. You know... out of curiosity as well,” said Reuben. “If it’s not too much trouble... and you can even keep the doors open, if you think I’m going to like, steal anything...”
“Yes, yes, of course. Feel free to step inside.”
With a flick of the purple Draik’s wrist, the gilded key was turned and one of the magnificent doors swung open before the Blumaroo, who knotted his fingers together and walked inside, his padding steps echoing throughout the hall.
The place was sort of like the throne room in his dream, except that since it was nighttime, it was deserted, silent, and even scarier. Unlike the barely-lit corridors, the room was completely dark. Reuben briefly closed his eyes and imagined the scene in his dream. Though it was dim, he could somehow feel that he was standing in the same spot at the beginning of his dream. He could almost see the cheering crowds, the stained-glass windows, the tapestries, the carpets, the throne...
He opened his eyes and stared ahead as much as he could through the gloom, making out a vague outline of the king’s important chair up front. The white Blumaroo could almost imagine Skarl there, the royal sword held high, ready to bring the flat part onto the shoulder of the one who saved Trestin...
Turning around, he walked away, passing the guards and once again emerging into the almost-deserted corridors of Meridell Castle.
“See you tomorrow, sir,” said the purple Draik, saluting and shutting the doors again as Reuben passed. “Have a good night’s sleep.”
By the time the Blumaroo had returned to his quarters and bade Arvine good night, the minute hand of the clock in his pocket moved up a notch, touching the twelve along with the hour hand.
To be continued...