Lisha & Jeran: Their Reunion in Words
You don't know how hard it was for me.
You don't know, you couldn't know, no matter how many times I've told you, no matter how vividly I try to express those old feelings, faded and healed now, but plaguing for so long. To have lost my brother mysteriously. Mysteriously. You disappeared into the woods without a trace. We didn't know if you were kidnapped, if you had succumbed to a terrible accident, or if you had simply wandered off and gotten lost... and never found your way home.
The events of that day in the woods would run through my mind a million times, in both sleeping and waking hours. During waking hours I learned to cope. I learned to distract myself, eventually, pry myself away from the memory by thinking, forcing other thoughts, or by talking to people, directing my imaginations and energies to the conversation at hand.
In sleep it was more difficult. In sleep I couldn't control it. Every night I would run through the very same forest that had been seared into my consciousness the day I lost you. In the daytime I knew it was only a memory, but in the night I could not distinguish between past and present reality, and it was quite real, agonizingly real. The moment I realized you weren't coming back was torn from eternity, and every night I relived the terror over and over.
Why did you leave me? Where did you go? Our family and friends, our neighbours and classmates held search parties for weeks. The Defenders of Neopia scoured those woods, to no avail.
At one time everyone knew I had a brother who had disappeared. I would tell every Neopian I met about you. Why? I don't know. Maybe I wanted everyone to know about the trauma our family had suffered. It was an event so life-changing for us that it didn't seem right, or natural, for life to just go on as usual.
Maybe I thought I could keep your memory alive. If I told other people about you, it was like they could know you, even though they never met you while you were here. Maybe when my friends would talk about their brothers and sisters, I wanted them to know I had a brother, too. I wasn't an only child. I had a brother somewhere. I knew what it was like to have a big brother...
As time went on, however, the topic of Jeran and his mysterious disappearance became one less and less talked about. Our parents would always remember you, of course; friends and neighbours too. But the new friends and classmates that came into my life as the years rolled on would never learn about you. The subject died like a prayer for a hopeless dream on my lips.
As I got older, I withdrew into myself. The woods continued to haunt me by day, and torment me at night, but I told no one. Perhaps I didn't want to upset my parents, to reawaken a memory that must have been painful for them. Perhaps I thought I was old enough and mature enough to deal with my own anxieties, or should have been. Or maybe, at long last, I actually wanted to forget. Maybe I thought that by not talking about you, Jeran, I could finally let go of the memory of losing you.
I grew up and went to middle school. I excelled in all my classes. I read books on magic and the Neopian arcane arts. I started a role-play club, and I tried not to think of you.
One day my history class took a field trip to a historic art museum. Of all my classes at school, history was probably my favourite. There was something about learning about the past that intrigued me in a way I couldn't explain. I could never quite put my finger on what it was, but something about ancient architecture, culture and daily life spoke to me like it knew me. It all seemed so familiar...
"Hi there!" As I was perusing the gallery with my friend Morris, admiring a certain painting of a castle with truly awe-inspiring stonework, I heard a voice over my shoulder. I turned around to see an old wobbly-legged, white-bearded yellow Techo with a glaringly gratified grin on his face.
"I couldn't help but notice that you have an interest in Neopian history," he stated. At first I wondered how he'd 'noticed', how I stood out to him more than any other kid in my class. I quickly glanced around the museum hallway. I was the only one still in the room besides Morris, who was waiting for me. Oh.
"Oh yes, I'm absolutely fascinated..." I began, a little embarrassed to have drawn such attention to myself. "I... I run the role-pla..."
"Then you should see some of the REALLY old stuff." Before I could respond again, the curator started off at a sprightly wobble down the hallway, expecting me to follow.
He led me into a room that was darker than the main hallways and had boxes and crates tossed and stacked all over the floor. Quickly adjusting to the dimmer light, my eyes fell on a certain painting as soon as we crossed the threshold. It was leaning against the wall, and it froze the universe in place.
"Why, in that painting you can see the heroic Sir Borodere, the saviour of Meridell who was unfortuna..."
The curator's voice was nothing more than a buzzing in my ear. "Ohh..." I breathed, or I tried to. My throat went hard. "It can't be... but..." My body went numb.
All of the sudden I was back in the woods. The woods. The woods. I was playing hide-and-seek with you. I counted backwards from a hundred, and made it down to ten by the mathematical principle of 'one, two, skip a few'. I stopped there, six years old and impatient. I started to look for you. I found blue flowers that were soft and fluffy like your ears... "Jeran?"
A berry-picking blue Kacheek's tail... "Jeran!"
But I couldn't find you. Anywhere. "Jeran? HELLO?? JEERRAAANNNN!"
"Is everything okay?" When my consciousness returned to the present, I realized I had broken into a cold sweat. I was shaking, and I was screaming.
"Oh, no... No..."
Sir Borodere. The knight in the painting was a spitting image of you, Jeran. You disappeared that day as if by magic. The painting of Sir Borodere was hundreds of years old, yet there wasn't a doubt in my mind that Sir Borodere was you... And then I remembered. It was said that the forest where we played that fateful game of hide-and-seek had grown over the ruins of the legendary kingdom of Meridell...
The next day I had my three best friends from the role-play club in tow. We were headed to the ruins.
"Come on, this way! We're nearly there!"
I hadn't been to the ruins in years, not since the last search party made their rounds, and it was painful for me. But the idea that you could be waiting at the light end of the tunnel, the thought that there was the slightest flickering of a chance that I might find you, overshadowed everything else. As I raced toward my destination, my friends floundering to keep up with me, all I saw before my eyes was you. You as a knight. Fighting for honour, battling evil, protecting the weak, like the knights I had read about in history books. The role was so worthy of you, so real.
The image burned in my eyes, and my friends said they could see it. I know they were worried about me. That's why they agreed to come along. In all the time I had known them, I'd never told them I had a brother. They were more than a bit shocked, predominantly when I disclosed my theory for what had happened to you — they'd never read Dr. Henrietta Huddlepike's book on the quantum physical science of time travel, you see. But if I had a brother I needed to find, they said they were more than happy to help me find him.
At first my friends stayed silent as they followed me through the forest, as I was nervously and reverently silent. But as minutes turned to hours and the most exciting thing that happened was Morris breaking a floating log and falling in the river... they started to get a little antsy.
"This is so boring, Lisha," Boris was first to complain. They resumed our regular role-play to pass the time.
"Prepare to die, Von Roo!"
"Never, Kauvara! You will soon be my undead slave!"
Just then strange, white rocks jutting out of the earth at curious angles appeared on the path before us. I gasped audibly, and I ran to them. "I've found it..." I panted in almost disbelieving wonder. "The ruins. This is the last place I saw Jeran alive!" I may have tripped and momentarily lost my glasses then. I think there was a root or something sticking out of the ground, but I didn't notice until it was too late. "Oof!"
"I remember it vividly..." I continued, after picking myself and my beloved spectacles off the grass. "I was hiding over there, and..."
Kayla and Boris weren't listening. Boris was pretending to be Count Von Roo trying to suck Kayla-Kauvara's blood, and Kayla was warding him off with her 'magic'.
"Stop it you two, this is serious!" I raced between the stone columns, enraptured, letting the gravity of the moment suffuse me. "It's the castle, just like in those paintings."
Morris was evidently as excited as I was. I was here to find my brother, his plan was to 'scale the castle walls and rescue the princess', or something to that effect. Didn't any of my friends understand how important this mission was to me?
It hurt, and I wanted them to know, but I tried to tone down my disapproval with a bit of their own lighthearted playfulness, so as to not show just how much it upset me. "Morris, if you don't stop playing around, I'll blast you into bits with my..." I thrust my toy wand at him. Then something happened that... that none of us could have ever expected. "Uh-oh..."
A blinding light radiated from my wand. We all squeezed our eyes shut, and when the light dissipated and we opened them again, the world around us was not the same. I felt nauseous, and my head spun... But once my stomach settled and my head cleared, it occurred to me in an instant that the white stone walls that enclosed us were the same ruined fragments from seconds ago. The same walls, only now they were tall and strong and gleaming, like they would have been in medieval times when the castle stood in its prime.
And down the hall were two green Draiks dressed in chain mail armour, like royal guards would have donned in the days of the castle's prime...
"Hey! How did you kids get in here?!"
Everything after that went by in a blur. Today I barely remember what happened. I don't know how much of it I understood or even perceived at the time, it was all so surreal and staggering. I know the guards approached us and tried to arrest us as suspicious outsiders. We were on our way to the dungeons when three monsters, which I later learned were Dariganni soldiers, broke through the windows and attacked us. I know that my friends and I were able to fight them off with magic — real magic...!? And I know this earned us an audience with the king.
Of course, getting to meet a king under normal circumstances would have been thrilling; the opportunity of a lifetime. And a king from a legendary medieval empire? Who's even entertained the impossibility as a thought! But when we were escorted into the throne room by the Draik guards, and our first glance at the king showed us a handsome, blue Lupe knight at his side... With all due respect to His Majesty, can I say King Skarl disappeared?
Tears welled in my eyes upon first sight. I knew I had found you, Sir Borodere. The painting couldn't have been truer to life, and Life couldn't possibly have resonated truer with my childhood memories. I didn't know what to do. I was beside myself. I was breathless. I wanted to run to you, throw my arms around you, stand on a mountain and scream to the heavens that I had found you. But at the same time I wanted to shrink, I wanted to hide, I wanted to vanish — back through the time portal or right off the face of Neopia, it didn't matter. To say my emotions overwhelmed me would never begin to encompass what I felt just then. I can't even put it into words.
But the Draik guards had assigned me as the speaker of our group. Mustering all my courage, I explained to the king to the best of my abilities how we had come to be in his castle, trying all the while to focus on the words I spoke, on the king, on anything but you. I would not make eye contact until the time was right.
Through all of this, Jeran, you were silent. I was beginning to wonder if you even recognized me. I was starting to doubt you did, and the thought flared inside me like a smouldering coal. It never occurred to me that when I finally found you, you might not remember me...
When I had finished my explanation, the king looked as confused as anything I'd ever seen. "Well, that story seems more like fantasy to me," he sighed in conclusion. He seemed as if he was about ready to throw us in the moat.
But it was what he would say next that would have a more jarring, profound impact on me than any verdict he could have passed, any commendation or condemnation or execution order. "What do you think, Jeran?"
I'm Lisha, I wanted to cry out to you. Brother, it's me Lisha! Please don't have forgotten me!
And for the first time, you looked at me. You looked me right in the eyes. "My lord, I would not believe their tale either," you said, "if there wasn't something strangely familiar about it."
All at once, I saw it flash in those eyes that were locked on mine. The woods. The incident from five years ago. When I couldn't find you, you came looking for me. But before we could be reunited, something happened — something bizarre and fantastic and irreversible, that would change both of our lives forever.
"Jeran," I whispered. To myself, to my friends, to you? Fyora knows.
"Lisha," your heart spoke out to me. Then you turned to the king and said aloud: "We are entering dark times, yet somehow I feel we can trust them."
I have never again experienced relief like I felt that day. Even if the king had thrown us in the moat, I would have sunken happily. Because my brother remembered me.
The castle staff escorted us to four guest rooms. We were told we could stay for as long as we needed, as long as it took us to find our way home. But there was no going back, I knew it. It had been five years since I'd last seen you, Jeran, and now that we had finally been reunited it had taken for me to come to you. The portal was a one way ride, and it had closed from the other side.
But I didn't care.
For soon you and I were in the castle garden. The red, blue and gold flowers were vibrant around us, as they were before the war began in earnest. A few minutes prior you had asked to speak to the small yellow Aisha who, in your words, "seemed to be the leader of the little party". And now, here we were. We walked side by side, and it was quiet, as neither of us knew where to begin.
Unable to bear the strained silence any longer, I said the obvious. And so did you.
"I've missed you," we both said at the exact same time. We laughed. We both knew it was the understatement of the century. But which century? The one we were born in, or the one in which we now resided?
"Oh, Lisha," you began," I can't believe you're here. I can't believe it..."
It was both. To say we missed each other had to be the understatement of every century.
I couldn't think of what we had both been through. Not now. I couldn't think of all the years I spent haunted by that memory, the woods a reel on repeat hijacking my every daytime thought, taking over my dreams... I could not think of those things, as I know they would have broken me down completely.
And I could not think of how I had suffered, Jeran, because I knew at that moment that it was nothing compared to what you had suffered. A young boy in a strange new world all by himself. Your experience was unprecedented and you had no one to share it with you; no one to walk beside you, or go before you to show you the way.
"Jeran." I reached up to touch your face. I wanted to be sure that it was real. It was real, and it was the same loving, wise, steadfast face I remembered, except it was older, the face of a man and not a boy, and I knew it had looked upon more impinging and extraordinary sights than I could have ever fathomed.
And it was wet like mine, though I could barely perceive the tears in your eyes. You always played the brave big brother.
"My sister." You smiled. "My little sister... You've grown up." You placed your hands gently on my shoulders. It was a comfortable position, one that made me feel safe, and loved. I remembered it well. "You've grown up..." you said once more. "I can't believe I missed it." You released me from your soft grip, and then stepped back as if ashamed.
"You didn't miss it, Jeran!" I exclaimed in hot protest. "I'm here now! What do I look like to you, an old biddy?"
You laughed. And it was the same laugh as the one that I cherished, the one I had hidden away in my heart. I thought I would never hear that laugh again.
"Oh Lisha..." And the harder you laughed, the harder you cried. You cried visibly now, as I did. Tears flooded my eyes, cascaded down my face like never since the day I lost you.
Some may say it was wrong. They may say you were a stranger to me, and I to you after five long years, that we knew nothing about each other in our current lives, that it was forward, presumptuous. But I could do nothing else but fall into my long lost brother's arms.
"Lisha." You bent down to rest your chin on my shoulder. "I just can't believe you're here." You had said it many times by now, but I didn't mind. Overcome with every soul-rending, cleansing, beautiful emotion in the world, I'm sure I repeated things over and over, too.
"Never leave." You sobbed. It seemed as if something else was trying to come out, but it didn't. "Never leave," you simply said again. You buried your face in my shoulder.
"I won't," I promised. And I meant it. "I'll never leave."
Of course I couldn't leave Meridell, even if I wanted to. In a medieval kingdom, time travel is a little known field of study. No one ever knew how you got here, Jeran; no one had been successful in sending you back home... And I'll just say I don't foresee any groundbreaking discoveries being made in the realm of quantum physics in the near future.
But that's alright. I could never want to leave Meridell, because Meridell is where you are, and where you must stay.
I have left everything else behind. Back in our hometown, Morris and Boris and Kayla and I would have disappeared without a trace, like you did. Our family and friends will look for us, probably for weeks or months. I hope our neighbours and classmates will notice we're gone. Our parents, Jeran, I have now left our parents in the same way you left them five years ago, and I can't bear to think what it will do to them... I hope that someday I'll be able to contact them, or that somehow they'll sense and take comfort in the fact that I have gone to be with you.
Morris and Boris and Kayla's families will all be going through the same thing. But this cannot be the end of the story. Connections with the ones you love can never be truly severed — I know that now. I won't rest until we've found a way to see them again.
But Jeran, just know that I am content to stay here. My friends and I are prepared and excited to forge new lives for ourselves in this entrancing new land from the past.
Meridell and its floating citadel neighbours are now at war. Every day we're attacked by a new squad of Dariganni monsters, or worse, launching counterattacks that you, Sir Borodere, have to lead. I worry about you so much when you go off to battle. I know it's your job to fight, I know it's what you were trained to do... Everyone says that nobody fights like Jeran Borodere. Still, the thought of losing you again, permanently, is... well, I can't even entertain it.
But you made a promise to me. The very same promise I made to you. You told me you would never abandon me. And, my dear brother, I believe you.
I swear I can withstand this war with a smile on my face so long as you're here beside me. We're together again, and what better motivation could there be to survive than that? I have to grow up so that you can watch me, and Jeran, you have to go on so that I can watch you grow stronger and stronger with time.
I admit sometimes I fear that none of this is even real. I'll wake up in the middle of the night in panic that everything, that finding you, has been nothing more than a rare sweet dream.
But then I turn over in bed and can see out the window, and the vast moonlit land that stretches out before me is Meridell, bruised and broken now... but I know someday it'll be whole again. Just as I have been made whole again. You and I can help to heal our glorious kingdom, just as you have healed me.
And I hope in some way, I've helped to heal you a little, too.
I'll never leave you, Jeran. Even if it means running headlong into the heat of battle, I will not leave my brother's side. We'll make up for the five years of time we lost, we'll share every future joy, and heartache, and fear. I don't know what the future will bring for us, Jeran, but so long as we're together, every day will be a source of joy to me, a cause for celebration.
So long as we're together, everything will be fine. No matter what happens, I know everything will be fine.
Just so long as we're never separated again. Fyora, don't let us be separated again.