The Obsidian Sword: An Unusual Quest - Part One
With special thanks to little_lady_goddess and piinkskullz. Written for Hamtaro152neo.
My life, up until a certain point around a year ago, had been one crash and takeoff after the other. Given as that I'm a Shoyru, you'd think that was just to be expected, what with learning how to fly as a child and such. But the crashes I'm talking about were mess ups, mistakes I'd made. Disasters were created, mainly by me and my temper, and then they were patched up in the only ways I knew how. I wasn't unhappy. But if I ever stopped moving long enough to think, I would have a sense of waking up and realizing that I wasn't who I wanted to be. Nights on the beach near the house I shared with my mother and two sisters - three when the oldest wasn't at college - were the best and worst of times. I loved the feel of the cool night air skimming against my wings. Though the water at the edges of Faerieland where we lived was nice, I dreamed of one day visiting Mystery Island, where I could be truly close to the water at all times. The sounds of the ocean were a part of me. The sand beneath my bare feet and between my toes were my comfort. I would walk for hours, until the drive to walk - to move, to keep going - wore off, and I was tired out. Because, honestly, when I was too tired to think was the only time I truly rested. It was on a night like that - when my mind was finally quieting and my muscles and bones began to relax - when a cold wind blew in, prickling my skin, and I got the distinct feeling that something... something was about to change.
Chapter 1: The Summons
I wake and roll over to check the clock, fuzzy memories dancing in my head about changing seasons and cold winds. Seven o'clock in the morning. I rub my palm over my face and groan, wishing desperately that I was still asleep. My mind calculates. Three hours. I've slept for three hours. Why am I even awake? My alarm is set for two hours from now.
"Up and at 'em!" my mother calls, clapping her hands twice.
"Did I get a training summons?" I mumble, barely conscious. Sometimes my trainer will call for random training sessions. He says we are to be prepared for anything at any time. I say sleep is something you don't interrupt for no apparent reason.
"No. No calls today. But why didn't you tell me you were still in contact with Ombre's Royal Court? Is this about the internship on the defense staff training team?" I blink up at her and see that her eyebrows are furrowed in confusion as she stares at a blurry rectangle in her hands. With a few more blinks, it stops being so blurry and comes into focus.
"Is that a Neomail?" I ask. "I never get Neomails." My only real friend - if you don't count my family - is Stephen, and he lives in the same house as I do. If he wanted to get in touch with me, he'd walk up to me and talk. Though, with Stephen, it's more of a communication through motions and looks. He hardly ever speaks. I'm not sure if it's a Harris trait or just a Stephen trait. I've heard him speak only once, and it was bad news. Still, it was bad news that ended up with him living with my family, so I can't complain. All the same, if the only time he finds it necessary to speak is when you've dragged it out of him or when there's something truly awful to say, it's probably better that he doesn't speak much.
"It looks like a letter to me," my mother says, one eyebrow raised as she hands it over to me. "Read it."
I sit up and tear open the wax seal. How odd. I applied a month ago to train as a minor soldier in the lesser-heard-of duchy of Ombre near Brightvale. Not even a soldier, really. Just part of the protection team that hoped to maybe one day become a soldier to serve under Duke Papineaux, their Eyrie lord. But even a minor soldier is a big deal. Not just anyone can get in. In any case, I didn't expect news back this long after the application. The post is slow, but it isn't that slow. So when I open the envelope and take out the folded page inside, I don't expect to see what I find.
My mouth drops while my eyebrows shoot upwards.
"Did you get in?!" my mother asks excitedly.
"N-no, I-" My brain stutters to a halt, and then goes into hyperdrive. I turn the letter over so my mother can see it. "It's a..." I clear my throat. "It's a letter from His Lordship."
"Duke Papineaux?" she asks, shocked. My face mirrors hers.
"The only duke there is in Ombre." A letter from his own quill is an unusual honor.
Dolly, one of my sisters, walks by my room. Her checkered tail stops swishing and she doubles back, sticking her spiked Scorchio head into the room. "What about the Duke of Ombre?"
"Taro got a letter from him," my mother says, still blinking away the shock.
She enters and plops down on the bed. "Well, what's he want?" she asks in typical Dolly fashion. Straight for the action.
"He wants to see me. He says it's important... that his wing was hurt recently in a battle with the Snowager... and that he has a --" I read the sentence over again, checking to be sure it's real. "-- a task for me."
Dolly looks momentarily confused, then purses her lips. "Sounds like you better get your behind out of bed, then, and go see what he wants."
I grin at her and shake my head. If the world came crashing down, Dolly wouldn't wait around for instruction. She wouldn't even take the time to be shocked. She'd be mobilizing food scouting teams in ten seconds flat.
"Sounds like he should've asked for you," I say jokingly. "Since you're so confident."
She shoves my shoulder. "You're the best man for the job."
I snort. "You don't even know what the job is."
"Doesn't matter." She grins at me with what slips off the borders of younger-sibling admiration and thuds down into idolation. My smile drops a fraction of an inch as I wish, once again, once in a long line of wishes, that she wouldn't look at me that way. All I hope for her is that she doesn't follow in my footsteps. She can do so much better for herself.
I shake my head and refocus. "I'd better get packed."
My mother nods. It's odd sometimes, being here where I've lived my entire life, where I spent my time as a child. Back then, I would ask permission. But now, fully grown, I don't. I've talked of moving out. Stephen and I, we could be roommates. We have the Neopoints. But for now, this works. I help fix things, cook every so often, and give my mother part of the Neopoints I earn from doing jobs at the Employment Agency. She says she doesn't need it, and it's the truth. She's done well for us and for herself in that regard. She says all I need to pay her in is smiles - that all she wants is to know I'm happy. But I do it anyway, because it's the responsible thing to do. Responsibility is something I'm still new to. It's been doing wonders to keep the past few years' worth of disasters from recurring. Things have been better, but I'm still not entirely sure how to make her smile at me like she did when I was young. Without hesitating. Without wondering what it is I'm thinking. Without trying to catch a hint as to whether or not I'm still okay.
Dolly flings my suitcase from the closet and onto my bed. "Take a book or two. You might learn something. People in Brightvale value things like literacy, you know. Ombre is probably the same. So you might wanna get a head start on that," she teases. She teases relentlessly. It's practically her way of communicating.
Baby, my youngest sister, strolls by the room with a donut in hand. Her mouth is part way full and she mumbles around the powdery fried cake to ask in her high voice, "Where's he going?" Her green Poogle ears twitch curiously as she eyes me cautiously. Most people have forgiven me for who I was. Dolly, in my opinion, doesn't seem to be one of them. Whether she hasn't or whether it's in my own head is something I'm never quite sure of. Maybe it's because she's the youngest. More of her life has been taken up by my trouble-making than the other two girls'. She's gentler than I am. Gentler than Dolly, my mother, or even Aryll. Aryll is my oldest sister, a Faerie Wocky who has used her wings -- both literal and metaphorical -- to fly high all her life. She's currently away at an amazing college and is one of the kindest, most caring people I know. For someone as innocent as Dolly is, it's no wonder she can't forget the yelling, fighting, angry pet I was. I wouldn't forgive me, either. If I'm honest, I have to admit I'm still trying to figure out how.
"To Ombre. He was summoned by the duke."
Baby's eyes go wide and flick between all of us. "Is he in trouble?!"
"No!" my mother exclaims, baffled at the assumption. My face heats, and I duck my head. I can't help but re-read the letter and wonder why. Of all the people in the world, why give a task to a pet like me?
Feeling that familiar urge to move, I get up and gather clothes, sliding them one by one off their hangers and harvesting them from my dresser drawers.
One way or the other, I'm about to find out.
To be continued...