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Tales of Bravery: Koen


by christinetran

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Ages ago, within the dewy forests of the blessed Brightvale Kingdom, there existed a young red Techo by the name of Koen.

     Koen lived in a simple hut upon the outskirts of the Brightvale kingdom. It's straw-thatched roof flickered at the slightest breeze, but it kept it's hold upon the wooden log walls. To it's back lay the shadowy darkness of the forest, and the farthest branches of the farthest trees barely grazed the edges of the faded roof. There weren't any windows, only wooden shutters secured by a small, rectangular bolt every night. The furniture was handmade, crafted out of the trees which grew luxuriously nearby, and the floor was covered in exotic bamboo rugs specially made from the island of mystery. The house was simple, and Koen was just as simple, if not more, as his home.

     He had always lived near trees. As a child, he was adopted by a kind-hearted Kacheek farmer who tended to the King's orchards. The saplings were Koen's playmates as a child, and they soon became his secret hideaway as he aged. Eventually, the trees soon became the sustenance in his life, and he depended on them for everything. He harvested their lush fruit every spring, and he used their sturdy, wooden branches as furniture and tools. Koen was young, but when it came to trees, he was wise beyond his years. Whenever he was around them, a small, golden light would erupt in his pale eyes, and warmth would suddenly spring to life within him.

     Even as a child, Koen had always been particularly shy and incredibly timid. He did have acquaintances, and companions, but he never confided in anyone except for the skin-like bark that covered every inch of his tall, leafy friends. But as Koen aged, he realized that he would have to interact with the outer world in order to survive in the prospering kingdom of Brightvale. So every week, he would travel into the village and sell his carefully crafted furniture and thick, juicy fruits to the townspeople. Soon, Koen became known for his consistency in creating amazing, if not perfect, furnishings and many considered him a mastermind when it came to tending fruit trees.

     And so, it was in this way that Koen had existed for many years. He was an outcast of society, choosing the company of wind-on-leaf over real words, but he was a known outcast that did not have any enemies.

     One particular day, Koen had returned from his weekly trip to the main part of town. The faded and torn bag hanging on his side jingled with coins, and a weak smile was planted on his sober face. This trip had taken longer than he had expected, and the intoxicating smells of civilization and lack of fresh, springlike aromas had taken it's toll on him. The heat was at it's height, the wind was at it's low, and Koen yearned for the quiet shadows of sunlight and leaves. As he waddled down the dusty, bronze road, his eyes started to light up as he made it to the crest of the hill. The billowing, fluffy tops of the trees amazed him each time, and Koen believed that he could never tire of them. Their beauty, the simple elegance of nature and it's children... it amazed him in many ways and made him speechless.

     Yet, this sight could still not wipe away the gossip he heard during his visit in town. Months ago, Meridell had started a war, yet again, with it's other neighboring kingdom of Evonkell. Since Brightvale exists upon it's borders, and had declared itself as Meridell's most trusted ally, the kingdom had no choice but to enter this war as well. It's been a half-year, and the battle still raged on upon the outskirts of Meridell. Luckily, the boundaries were ages away from the edges of Brightvale, and the war's ferocity has not yet reached the village. But... these rumors that Koen had heard... some townspeople had received word that Evonkell's most deadly soldiers were planning a kidnapping. Their target: Brightvale's princess Acara, Lady Teryl, and the only heir to the throne.

     Koen could already feel fear grip his heart as he thought of the royal family. The King had always been generous and incredibly kind, the best king Brightvale has had in years. Unfortunately, the King is plagued by old age and diseases for which no cures could be found. He barely even has strength to speak or command, let alone control a thriving kingdom. So, for the past few months, Lady Teryl has taken control of the kingdom, and she has been doing an amazing job as well. Her quick wit and clever plans had aided both Brightvale and Meridell in the war, and has constantly pulled them out of ambushes and ditches. Yet, her soft smile and stern countenance had made her both formidable and merciful when it came to matters of her domain. Like her father, she is the best Queen that Brightvale has had for many, many years.

     Another gust of wind breezed by as Koen crossed over the small hill's crest. He sighed as he rested his eyes upon the comforting picture of his home bordered by still, green trees. It was so perfect. He had somehow managed to bring his childhood dreams and fantasies into reality. A calm, peaceful life that dwells upon the edge of Neopia's natural beauty, and firm belief that this life shall continue on as he ages. Koen sighed once again and pushed open the front door to his hut.

     The windows were open inside and allowed the warm sunlight to dance upon the wooden floors amidst clouds of dust particles. Embers of a leftover fire still flickered in his hearth, begging for more wood in order to fly and grow once more. Instinctively, Koen glanced towards the end of his bed, and his eyes fell upon the empty, open wooden cage at it's foot.

     "Dirk must be out," Koen chuckled softly to himself as he walked towards the window and stared into the infinite blue sky. Dirk was Koen's petpet; a Brown Ganuthor with wings twice as large as it's body and a brain as tiny as a Moach. Of course, like Koen, Dirk had a love for nature, and constantly flew out of his cage to frolic in the soft shadows of the forests. Although Dirk was colored brown, the sun had burned his fur into a deeper, darker brown until it started to resemble the dark hue of the oak tree bark in the woods.

     Koen lowered his eyes from the sky and turned his attention to the forest. The wind and trees, like always, once again beckoned to him, but Koen refused their call with a smile. For him, time did not exist under the green boughs, and, like always, he would lose track of days, thus wasting precious time to earn a life.

     But, as Koen stared at the trees, they reminded him of another rumor which he heard during one of his trips to town. The news of the possible kidnapping had reached the Lady Teryl's ears, and, in order to protect herself and her royal family's line, she went into hiding. Now, her chief-maidens and trusted advisors communicate for her, and she hasn't been seen since. Rumor has it that she now resides in the forests that lie between Meridell and Brightvale... or, in other words, she lives in the forests which Koen love and live by. Of course, these words might be fake, but still...

     "It shall be quite fortunate to chance upon a meeting with Lady Teryl in the woods," Koen muttered to himself softly and chuckled once more. He knew that Lady Teryl has heard of him, though she does not know his name. Instead, she knows him by the alias "Provider", for Koen's fruits are the ones which decor the royal tables and hallways every dinner, and his furniture are the ones which grace the bedrooms of the castle. He has, in fact, been summoned to attend a Royal Dinner numerous times in the past, but Koen has always politely refused these invitations. He preferred sunlight over limelight, and green ceilings over golden ones.

     As Koen stood there, daydreaming, his mind was suddenly interrupted by a sound from the forest. His eyes instantly focused itself upon the direction which the noise came from, and he held his breath in anticipation. Perhaps it was Dirk... but Dirk usually did not come back until late at night, and the sun had barely left it's place atop Neopia's rolling, green plains. As he continued to gaze intently in that direction, shadows and silhouettes of unknown forms started to appear between the branches of the trees.

     These shadowy figures were a few yards in the forest, but Koen was able to see them quite clearly. Their movements were quiet, and stealthlike... barely detectable unless one knew what they were looking, or listening, for. Koen continued to listen and watch these forms prance about in the forest's shadows... and, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they became invisible.

     Koen, obviously, was quite startled by this quick entrance and abrupt leave, so he continued to stand and stare at the exact same spot. Koen was completely transfixed by it, and as he gazed, his ears started to pick up an odd noise.

     It was a song... a soft melody that sifted through the trees on wings of air. It was a breathless sort of song... one that would numb your insides and captivate your senses. The moment Koen heard this, though, he wasn't captivated. Instead, he was terrified. He had recognized that voice. It was no secret that Lady Teryl had one of the most amazing voices in Brightvale...

     "Lady Teryl!" Koen cried out in warning. "RUN!"

     He didn't see her. No. Koen didn't even catch a glimpse of Lady Teryl. Instead, he heard loud shouts and screams that erupted from within the depths of the forest. Koen knew that the shadowy silhouettes had come back, and he knew that they were kidnapping Lady Teryl. He could hear her screams for help coming from within the forest.

     "Help! Help! Untie me right this moment you scoundrels! Help!"

     Instantly, Koen knew that he should do something about this. He knew that he should help his Queen, his Lady. She was the future of Brightvale... but Koen did not know what to do. He was the Caretaker of Orchards, and that was his specialty. He did not know how to fight, or even swing a heavy, metal sword. Besides, he had heard that the kidnappers were the best warriors of the kingdom of Evonkell. Compared to them, Koen wouldn't stand a chance. All he could do now, though, was to stand and listen to Lady Teryl scream for help... help that he believed he couldn't give.

     At that precise moment, when hope had faded, the embers within Koen's fireplace burst into flames once more. Koen gasped in shock when that happened, and stared at it in surprise. Embers do not do that. They do not revive themselves after nearly dying out. That was impossible. Yet... Koen had witnessed it. The embers, so close to oblivion, had sparkled once more, and now they were burning through the ashen logs as if nothing had happened. A blazing inferno that had been produced from what had once seemed so innocent and cold....

     Koen stared at the burning flames, and he looked out the window once more. He could still hear the sounds of the struggle from within the forest... it was obvious that Lady Teryl was a fighter, and that she did not want to be taken so easily. Koen glanced at the flames once more, and then he stared out into the forest. The branches reached upwards, and the new, soft-green leaves looked so vulnerable...

     So flammable.

     Koen knew what he must do, and he did not dwell on this decision for long. Quickly, Koen rushed towards the fire and grabbed a dozen burning twigs with his outstretched hands. He rushed towards the door as quickly as possible and burst through it. The moment he came outside, the sounds of Lady Teryl's cries for help were even louder, and Koen was as determined as ever. He rushed towards the forest and threw the twigs into the nearest bush.

     In seconds, the bush erupted in flames, and the fire started to fly and lick at the nearest leaves and bark. Nearby trees erupted in flames as well, and the ground instantly became dotted with fallen burnt twigs and leaves. Like falling dominoes, each tree and bush ignited, and this burning effect quickly spread throughout the forest until the entire thing was filled with ash, smog, and embers. Koen did not stand idly by to watch, though. Instead, he rushed into the forest, his arms wrapped protectively around his head. He rushed towards the direction of Lady Teryl's screams... which had died down.

     Smoke quickly enveloped Koen's senses, and his eyes started to water in irritation. Still, he continued to run forward, for he had a purpose that was firmly implanted in his mind, and he did not plan on abandoning it. Surprisingly, Koen reached Lady Teryl quite soon.

     She was lying upon the floor, her velvet, green cloak was draped across her body as if she was trying to protect herself. She was nearly invisible, and Koen would've missed her if he hadn't been looking down at that exact moment. Koen immediately bent down and gathered the young Acara in his arms. Her hood was tied about her face, so her features were hidden in darkness and smoke. Still, Koen was absolutely sure that this was Lady Teryl. The moment he had gathered her in his arms, he rushed out of the forest as quickly as possible.

     Now, the flames were higher than ever, and the air was completely saturated in ash and smog. It was hard to breathe, for each breath was like inhaling the fire itself. Still, Koen continued to rush forward, and he made sure that Lady Teryl was not touched by any flames. This time, though, it took longer to get out of the forest, for the usual paths were now blocked by fallen, burnt branches... it was a burning inferno, and it was slowly growing larger with each passing second.

     Finally, Koen found a clear pathway towards the edge of the forest, and he quickened his pace towards that destination. The moment he ran out of the forest, Koen dropped Lady Teryl upon the green ground, and he fell upon the floor and started to gasp for breath. His face was covered in ash, and his legs and arms felt weak and shaky. He could still smell the horrible scent of burning, and his eyes were red and filled with water.

     Slowly, Koen lifted himself off the floor and approached Lady Teryl. She was still upon the ground, and he could hear her faint breathing over the roaring of the flames...

     It was then that Koen had realized what he had done to his life.

     Quickly, Koen pivoted and stared at the forest in shock. Now, though... it wasn't a forest anymore. Instead, it was a burning pile of dead logs and flames. All that he had loved... it was gone. It had erupted into embers and charcoal and cinders... blackness and grayness. No more leaves, no more trunks, or branches, or limbs, or grass...

     It was all gone. Koen did not cry, though, for his eyes were already brimming in tears from the ash. He felt weak now, and his head felt dizzy. What had he done...

     With a cry, Koen rushed towards the forest...

     **********

     Lady Teryl awoke slowly, but her eyes still felt heavy, and she found it odd that each breath was like inhaling smoke. Around her, she could hear murmurs and whispers, and once her vision had regained itself, she looked up and saw dozens of multicolored eyes staring down at her. Their faces were filled with concern, and their eyes were drowned in worry. Lady Teryl slowly pushed herself off the ground and stared around her.

     "What happened?" she asked softly.

     "The forest burned down, my lady," one villager said softly and pointed towards the ruins of the once, majestic woods.

     Lady Teryl nodded slowly to indicate that she had heard, but her mind was still buzzing with questions. The last thing she remembered was staring into the face of a Techo, a kind, young Techo. He must have saved her, she thought, as she recalled her faint memories of being carried through the burning forest...

     "What happened?" she asked again once more. "Who saved me? Where is that Techo? He saved me..."

     At these words, all the villagers stopped talking, and they all stared down at the ground morosely. One villager, though, a Gelert, continued to stare at the forest.

     "The forest burned down, my lady," the Gelert said sadly, "and so did the Techo."

The End

 
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