The Travels of Mijjol Lightwielder: Part Seven
Part Seven: Recognizance
Out again in the bright sunlight, the two Neopets stopped to rest. Lukhu nudged Mijjol impatiently.
“What did Sir Chrys give you?” the brown Lupe asked.
“Oh... right, I almost forgot.” The red Mynci fingered the silver envelope. It felt unreal, almost like water. His fingers were like clumsy tree branches upon such a delicate, smooth thing.
Inside the glistening envelope there was a sparkling pool of Neopoints.
“Wow,” said Mijjol, transfixed.
“Let’s go back to the vessel,” said Lukhu. “We’ve done our duty and Cap’n will be wanting us back.”
“Wait a moment... there’s something else in here.” Mijjol felt inside the envelope carefully, and drew out a thin sheet. There was writing on it.
“What’s that?” Lukhu snapped, suspiciously.
“I don’t know,” said Mijjol slowly, staring at the sheet. He remembered his early lessons in the Shenkuu medicine shop, reading the labels on jars, and the words in front of him now took on some meaning.
Mijjol, he read, you call yourself Lightwielder; you call yourself a hero. But do you know what true heroism is? True heroism does not mean chasing after supposed bad guys and putting on a show of martial skill, though it can be exhilarating for a young soul. True heroism is knowing your limits and keeping your focus in the middle of glory, and cherishing your roots deep in your heart. Remember that, Mijjol Lightwielder, the next time you decide to put your life and others’ lives at risk.
Your fellow hero,
Mijjol read it twice, and then crumpled the sheet of paper in his hand. What business did the female Kougra knight have to lecture him like that? He and Lukhu had merely delivered some goods to Sir Chrys, nothing more! Why should the white Kougra take any interest in his personal affairs?
That irritating voice seemed to answer: Because I care about my fellow heroes...
In spite of himself Mijjol felt his mind cycling through the words. Chasing after supposed bad guys... he had indeed fought Lukhu quite impulsively, and instead found a friend. His roots... what roots did he have? He’d been abandoned just seven days after his creation. But then a gentle amber Ruki had arrived and brought him home to Shenkuu... and he had left without saying goodbye...
“Mijjol?” Lukhu called. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” said the Mynci, shaking his head slightly to clear the troubling thoughts. “Let’s go back to the vessel.”
And so they journeyed back down the green suburban slopes of Altador. A ball of crumpled paper lay in the grass behind them.
Cap’n Skeith was taking a stroll in the Altadorian marketplace, jingling his pouch of Neopoints and running numbers swiftly through his head. Occasionally he would think of the two erratic adventurers with whom he had trusted the valuable ice crystals. They had not yet turned up... but at least there was a 50 percent chance that they would. Those two would either run off with the treasure or deliver it safely, which was more than he could ask of his Tonu sailors.
He looked with mild interest at the various goods on sale. A food vendor ran up to him eagerly and offered him a bite of Altadorian bread. It looked fancy, just like the architecture, but tasted... bland. Ordinary and peaceful, half-asleep almost.
The captain sighed. There was limited business, if any, to be made here. But at least he would have profited from the ice crystals trade – that is, if Mijjol and Lukhu had successfully delivered the goods.
“Cap’n!” a long-expected voice rang out. “We’re back!”
“Mijjol!” the grey Skeith roared in delight. “And Lukhu! I was wonderin’ if you two’d ever make it... now, where’s the Neopoints?”
Lukhu grabbed the bag of watery silk, almost too eagerly, and proffered it with a big grin to the captain.
“Oho!” cried Cap’n Skeith, teeth shining in rapture. “This is a mighty profit, indeed! Good work, you two! Good work! I say, let’s buy a coupla delicacies and go aboard our vessel to celebrate!”
Cap’n Skeith and Lukhu were so happy about the profit that neither of them took much notice of Mijjol’s strange behaviour. The red Mynci tagged along behind them, eyes distant, not saying anything.
Somewhere far away, an iron bell was tinkling in the breeze.
“Cheers!” cried Cap’n Skeith.
“Cheers!” cried Lukhu.
“Cheers!” cried the two Tonu sailors.
“Cheers,” said Mijjol, somewhat dreamily.
And then they all tipped their heads back, drank – and grimaced.
“What is this stuff?” the grey Skeith snarled, peering at the pinkish liquid in his glass.
“Altadorian nectar,” Lukhu replied, also snarling. “Made from the luscious fruits of Altador.”
They grimaced again.
“Ah, well,” said Cap’n Skeith, “at least we got some other delicacies to enjoy.”
Meaning, salad and spaghetti. As the Neopets drank fruit juice and ate veggie salad, they couldn’t help but feel that there was something missing. Still, they made merry as much they could. Life was short, after all.
It also got Mijjol thinking about the food back in Shenkuu. And when one starts thinking about food from one’s childhood, one wants very much to go home, indeed.
“You know,” said Mijjol, at last, “Shenkuu food is a lot better than this.”
“Aye,” the captain agreed, “and far more profitable, too. Hmm... perhaps we should go to Shenkuu next. I hear Neopia Central is demandin’ red dates.”
“When we reach Shenkuu,” said Mijjol, quietly, “I think I’ll leave you. I’ve paid back what I owed you, and... my home is calling to me.”
To his surprise, Cap’n Skeith did not seem in the least surprised. “Ah,” he said, winking knowingly, “I knew from the moment I met ya that you’d want to go back to your master one day.”
“Don’t worry, lad,” said Cap’n, reassuringly, “I was a young laddie once too. We all make mistakes, ain’t that right?”
The others nodded in unison.
But, Mijjol was thinking, if I can’t be a famous hero, then who can I be?
The rest of the day went past in a slow, pensive haze. Cap’n Skeith went for another walk in the market; it was a waste, after all, to sail all the way to Shenkuu without carrying some goods. The Tonu sailors, in the meantime, busied themselves with cleaning the little vessel and maintaining the sails. They also took the opportunity to nap, as they were the ones doing much of the navigation by night.
Lukhu and Mijjol went to admire Altador’s famed Hall of Heroes.
It was an awe-inspiring place, laced in white splendour. The stone statues stood in a circle of light, each a gleaming figure on the point of a star. Overhead the constellations shone, illuminating stories from long past. The lands of Altador lay quiet beyond the window, basking in the warmth of its history.
Mijjol knew that he could never become such a hero.
Then again, Sir Chrys the retired female knight had shown him another definition of a hero.
“Mijjol?” came Lukhu’s voice.
“You’ve been standing there staring for the past fifteen minutes,” said Lukhu.
“Oh, I’m fine, really,” said Mijjol. “Let’s get out of here.”
On the way out, Lukhu said, “Did you see the sword of King Altador? That armour? That bow? Goodness... I never thought Altadorian craft could be as elaborate as that!”
Mijjol merely nodded amicably.
It was late afternoon when they set sail for Shenkuu. Cap’n Skeith had decided to deliver a load of Altadorian armour that Shenkese metalworkers would be interested in.
“Want some pieces of armour?” Cap’n Skeith asked Mijjol. “You’ve done a mighty good job of deliverin’ the goods. It’s only fair that you should get a reward, eh?”
“Well... I...” Mijjol looked down at his gold-handled katana, and felt the comfortable leather of his Shenkese helmet. “No,” he answered. “I don’t want to wear any of that shiny new armour. This equipment has been with me through ice and air, and I’m not going to put on any other armour.”
“Ah,” said Cap’n Skeith. “Well said, laddie.”
“What about me?” said Lukhu. “Don’t I get new armour?”
The grey Skeith chuckled. “Sure you do. Which kind do you want?”
Soon the tall brown Lupe was happily strutting about on board, decked out in his silvery Altadorian outfit. His manner was so cocky that everyone laughed till they clutched their sides.
Then they sat on deck for a while, watching the seas. After some time Lukhu suggested, “Maybe we should play a little game. Make the most of your time here, y’know. Since we won’t be seeing you for awhile...”
The red Mynci nodded. Cap’n Skeith brought a deck of cards and the Neopets played a bit of Neopoker, without real Neopoints involved of course.
Lukhu kept losing; he didn’t seem to have much guile. “Augh!” he snarled, at the end of each game. Finally Mijjol threw down his cards and said, “Oh, let’s stop playing. It’s getting dark anyway.”
And certainly it was. Stars were scuttling all over the sky, gleaming like excited beetles. The sea became a great glittering mirror of darkness.
The three friends (yes, they had become friends, somehow) lay back on deck and watched the endless little lights. A fresh evening breeze blew by, carrying faint smells from afar.
“I expect you’ll have a lot to tell ’em, eh, Mijjol?” said Cap’n Skeith, rather sleepily. “When you get home?”
“They’ll be expecting an epic tale, though,” said Mijjol. “I haven’t done really heroic deeds... I mean, I fought Lukhu, and I fought your Tonu sailors, and I fought some robbers back there in Altador... but I haven’t done anything heroic, really. I didn’t save a kingdom from ruin, rescue any beautiful princesses or even discover any treasure. I just... wandered around, fought a bit and travelled a bit, and basically accomplished nothing.”
“You sure you accomplished nothin’?” Cap’n Skeith turned towards him with a wink.
“Well...” said Mijjol, and stopped. A small smile appeared on his face.
“That’s the thing, isn’t it,” said Lukhu. “You don’t go out looking for much, in particular, and you end up with new friends and a story to tell. Not a typical heroic adventure story, but a story, still.”
“Yeah,” said Mijjol.
Overhead the stars blinked. The waters stirred. And home lay deep in the distance.
To be continued...