Lorelei spent much of her time alone, but she was not a lonely Lupe. Rather, she preferred to spend her days running through fields, imagining herself as Rohane. She would poke at large tumbleweeds, pretending them to be Drakonids. Though they never fought back, to her, they were much tougher beasts than the tall weeds she stomped on as she pretended them to be Chia Guards.
The other pets in Coral Canyon stared and whispered about her as she frolicked about, stomping and slaying the imaginary monsters that threatened her. To them, Lorelei looked silly as she jumped around flattening shrubbery. The pets in Lorelei's neighborhood had taken to more 'sophisticated' activities, such as hanging out around the Plateau and going to the Concert Hall. While they had all grown up together, listening to the stories oh Rohane from the older siblings and elder pets in the Canyon, Lorelei seemed to be the only one who still clung to the folklore. When they were all younger, Lorelei and a few of the other pets would take turns playing Rohane, and rotate between the different cohorts they had heard he gathered along the way.
"I don't WANT to be Mipsy again," was always Jakob's cry. Whenever Jakob had been rotated in to fill Mipsy's spot, he would stomp his Quiggle feet and whine until one of their other friends would step in and be the magician that was Mipsy. Jakob was much more keen on playing Velm, as he enjoyed being the one who was able to heal the others.
Now, Jakob leaned over to Amelia, a beautiful Mynci, and said in her ear:
"When will Lorelei grow up?"
Amelia chuckled softly, looking away. Lorelei had looked over at them while Jakob was talking, and Amelia could tell by the way Lorelei looked down that Lorelei had heard Jakob's comment.
Lorelei wasn't particularly bothered by the comments of her peers, because she wasn't too interested in the types of hobbies they had grown accustomed to. However, Amelia had been her closest friend, always portraying the Mipsy to her Rohane when they played together. When Amelia had finally decided she was too old to be acting out the characters of the stories they once heard, she tried to get Lorelei to come with her and the others to a show at the Concert Hall. Lorelei had turned her down, and Amelia went without her. They hadn't played together since.
Jakob, Amelia, and the others headed off to the Plateau, still glancing sideways at Lorelei prancing along as they walked by.
"Not today, Hubrid Nox!" cried Lorelei as she tossed a wooden sword at a large boulder. It made a thick 'clunk' noise before it landed softly in the grass, and Lorelei charged at the boulder, roaring fiercely. Jakob and his friends laughed heartily, pointing at Lorelei, and Amelia looked away.
Lorelei came into her Neohome for lunch, where there was a hearty chokato sandwich sitting on the table. Lorelei scarfed down the sandwich, and went to the cupboard to see if she could find some potato chips.
"Long day of defeating monsters or what, Lor?" Lorelei poked her head around the cupboard to see her brother, Von, walking toward the table. She grabbed the chips and shut the cupboard.
"I've been pretty busy all day, and it's hot outside. I was hungry," she commented, her mouth full of chips. Von put her dish in the sink and turned around, his large Draik eyes glaring into her.
"Lorelei, you know that Rohane and his buddies aren't real, right? You know that those are just stories everyone tells to keep the young pets quiet for a few minutes while they listen," he said seriously. His wings slowly opened and closed as he spoke to her. Lorelei rolled her eyes and sighed.
"First of all, there's no proof that it isn't real. Second of all, it's none of your business what I spend my time doing," Lorelei said definitely as she tossed the empty potato chip bag in the trash. Von threw his hands up in defeat.
"Fine! I'm not judging you, Lor. You know better than anyone that I was the biggest Rohane fanatic back in my day. But there comes a time when you should think about other things, like training or learning. All of your friends seem to have moved on already. Jakob's almost ready to start training at the ninja school," Von said approvingly. Lorelei glared at him.
"That's great for Jakob. I gotta go." Lorelei turned on her heels and walked out the door, toward the blazing sun shining light down on the Canyon.
Lorelei had ventured out fairly far from her home as she imagined battles with Hubrid Nox and Terask. After turning a rather large boulder into a pile of rocks, Lorelei smiled contentedly. "How's that for training, Von?" she thought happily, as she grabbed some of the rocks to take with her as she walked along.
Lorelei headed several hundred yards further into the Canyon, until she hit a place she had never seen before. She was approaching a line of trees. Lorelei looked around – the trees seemed out of place compared to the flat, dusty plains littered with boulders and sharp brush she had been walking through. Curious, Lorelei headed into the tree-covered area.
Instantly ten degrees cooler, Lorelei slowed her pace, enjoying the green shrubbery she was seeing. She walked past dozens of trees, the ground littered with green leaves, twigs, and brush. It felt soft on the pads of her paws, and she enjoyed kicking her paws in it to feel the leaves fly up behind her. Lorelei began to run happily through the trees, with no end to them in sight. She ran until she heard a hearty GRUNT that stopped her in her tracks. Lorelei immediately skidded, her paws completely stopped on top of layers of leaves, her heart pounding. The loud grunt was followed by two more, and Lorelei could hear that it was coming from her right.
Slowly, Lorelei crept to her right, wincing every time her paws landed – these twigs and leaves were not nearly as quiet as the flat dirt she normally trod on. From behind a tree several yards in front of her, Lorelei could see what looked like a mud-covered neopet. It grunted as it lunged its body forward in jerky movements, unable to move swiftly. Every move it made seemed to be sticky, and it left brown, muddy footprints behind it. Lorelei gasped as she realized what it was – a swamp Gelert. One of the very monsters that the elders had talked about for ages, but that she had been told wasn't real. One of the monsters that she had pretended to fight over and over again, pretending to be Rohane with her wooden sword. One of the monsters she was laughed at for still believing in, lurching in front of her. Lurching toward her.
Lorelei realized that the swamp Gelert must have heard her gasp, and she clamped her jaw shut, too terrified to move. The swamp Gelert sluggishly moved its limbs one a time, unsticking them front the ground and slapping them in front of itself, inching itself closer to Lorelei. Her eyes widened in terror.
"Ah, another one!" A loud voice came from behind the swamp Gelert. Lorelei managed to move her eyes from the Gelert to above it, where a yellow Blumaroo was running toward them. He had on a satchel, and was wearing a long multi-colored cloak, and was wielding a sword. He jumped over the Gelert, skidded to a stop in front of Lorelei, and turned to face the monster in front of them. He began to battle with the swamp Gelert, whose moves suddenly quickened when presented with a fight. The Blumaroo knocked the swamp Gelert several times before it reached out a muddy paw and swatted the sword out of his hand.
The Blumaroo turned to pick up his sword, and the swamp Gelert lunged toward his turned back. Lorelei, who had played scenes like this a hundred times, reached into her bag and began pelting the swamp Gelert with the rocks she had picked up earlier. The Gelert growled angrily and began to sludge backward. Lorelei continued to throw her rocks at the Gelert until it turned and lurched quickly away. She turned to see if the Blumaroo had found his sword, and found him staring at her, a bemused look on his face.
"Not bad, if I do say so myself! What's your name?" he asked, sticking a hand out. Lorelei blushed and returned his handshake, saying "I'm Lorelei. Thank you." The Blumaroo smiled and said, "Name's Rohane. I'd love to stick around and chat, but I've actually got to head through Southern Meridell by tomorrow. I've still got a ways to go."
Lorelei's jaw dropped, her paw still in Rohane's hand.
"But..." she began, but Rohane was taking off his satchel and had begun talking.
"Here, take this. It's much sturdier than that one you've got, and that's especially important if you're going to be toting rocks around," he handed her the worn satchel, waved, and bounded away in the same direction the swamp Gelert had gone. Lorelei was in disbelief. She turned and ran back the way she came from, eager to get away from any other swamp Gelerts, and eager to tell Von what had happened.
By the time Lorelei got home, it was after dark. Her brother was in the kitchen when she came inside. Breathless, she began to tell him her story.
"Von, you're not going-" but Von began speaking at the same time that she had.
"Listen, Lorelei – you've been gone all day." Lorelei grew quiet. He continued. "I know you're really into roleplaying Rohane and his friends, but you have really got to get started on your training. You know there's a stack of books in your room you've never bothered to begin reading, and we've been saving up codestones for ages in preparation of your training. I hate to say this, Lor, but you've really got to give this up." He finished his speech, which Lorelei could sense he'd been practicing for a while. She looked down at her satchel, and then back at Von.
"Okay. I figured it was time I started training anyway. I've got to get to be better than Jakob, haven't I?" she said with a small smile, heading toward her room. Von looked relieved, and clapped her on the shoulder.
"I'm so glad to hear you say that. By the way, that's a great satchel. When did you get that?" he looked impressed by the strong, sturdy satchel that was holding Lorelei's stones.
Lorelei paused, and then said, "Just something I picked up at the market today while I was out." Von nodded seriously.
"It was getting time to replace that old one you had. It was looking pretty old. That one looks like it holds way more stuff," he quipped, walking away.