The Pursuit of Greatness
Night patrol. It was the time when all the bustle and lustre of Brightvale was lost to a cloak of darkness and an eerie silence that seemed to hum with possible threats. It made Brynn's fur stand on end as she stepped out of the castle gates.
"I'll see you all reporting back here in the morning," said the captain, as he scanned the group of guards who were going on duty, his voice loud and clear in the late night hush. With a dull murmur of assent, they dispersed, the air thick with the sound of clicking boots.
The sound grew fainter as everyone scattered in different directions. Brynn turned left, her heart beginning to beat faster as she did so.
She'd never been on night patrol before. It was irrational to be worried, she reasoned, as she made her way forward. She'd handled most of her previous work as guard without major problems. This shouldn't have to be any different. But even as she went deeper into the darkness, there was still a small part of her that yearned for the reassuring light of morning.
This shift wasn't usually hers. One of the other guards had called in sick and she'd offered to take his place for the night. She'd volunteered to fill in for him in a move fuelled by some of the restless energy to prove herself. She'd been in the Brightvale Guard for two months, and she still didn't feel as if she truly belonged. She had met the captain's skeptical expression with an unflinching gaze and insisted that she was as capable of handling night patrol as anyone else.
The result of the conversation was this- a street empty save for her, a gnawing sensation at the back of her throat and a sweaty palm that clutched her sword.
She got enough scepticism already, from fellow guards and the other castle staff, who were convinced that someone as young as herself couldn't cope with a post as watch guard. She was determined to prove them wrong.
She took one last look back at the looming silhouette of Brightvale Castle. Her eyes lingered on the glowing windows, pinpricks of light in the darkness. She allowed herself a pang of wistfulness as she imagined how nice it would be to be an ordinary Neopian citizen in this moment, curled up in bed. It would have been even nicer not to have the pressing responsibility of staying awake through the night, patrolling the streets. She shrugged her shoulders and turned away. Taking a deep breath, she plunged into a side street.
She'd given up ordinary, a long time ago, she told herself firmly. Ordinary had never been an option. She had always gravitated towards knighthood, to defend, to protect. The danger was inevitable.
She moved out into the marketplace. It had always been one of her favourite places in Brightvale. She had loved spending time there, awash in the friendly hullabaloo. At this time of night, the square was deserted, the rows of stalls quiet and empty. A cold, clean breeze picked its way through the square and she pulled her jacket tighter around herself, increasing her pace slightly as she crossed it.
Her gait acquired a steady rhythm as she walked down the road, her breathing deep and even. She walked between houses and shops, sidetracking occasionally into smaller alleys. Some of her nervousness abated in the normality of the task. This was a route she had covered before, so what if she was doing it now in the dead of the night? She felt herself relaxing; it wasn't so different after all, from anything else she'd done before.
She crossed a road, in the direction of the library. The Brightvale Library was one of Neopia's most renowned libraries, a sprawling building that housed masses of books, scrolls and manuscripts. Its windows winked cheerily at her as she made towards it. It was open all hours of the day, its doors welcome to any scholar who wished to peruse its shelves.
She had spent many days here herself when she'd been a student. She slowed down involuntarily as she drew level with it. It had been ages since she had last walked through the walnut doors, to the shelves that lay beyond. The library had never been her one of her favoured haunts, but even as she stood there, she felt a wave of nostalgia.
The door swung open and light spilled out onto the pavements. Brynn stepped back automatically into the shadows. She was afforded a clear view into the front room of the library as a few Neopets walked out, carrying stacks of books and papers. The strong smell of paper wafted out to her and she breathed it in, the scent bringing back a slew of memories.
On an impulse, she went closer to the door. At the same time, a tall figure appeared at the threshold and a cheerful voice cried out, "Brynn, is that you?"
She started, completely taken aback, then relaxed a second later, as she recognized the bespectacled Blumaroo standing in the doorway. "Mrs. Luxon?"
The librarian smiled genially at her. "Are you here to visit the library? You were never the type of person to study in the middle of the night."
"Oh, no," she said quickly. "I'm on patrol."
The librarian's eyes moved over her guard uniform, taking in the sword at her belt, the logo emblazoned on her tunic. Brynn stood straighter, brushing back the hair that had spilled out of her helmet.
"That explains it. I was surprised to see you here. I came out for a breath of fresh air, like I do when it gets stuffy in there. It's the first time I've actually seen someone out and about. "
"Well, night shift," she muttered.
Mrs. Luxon nodded, smiling slightly. "Yes, of course." She glanced once more at her sword, then back at her. "It's been a long time since I last saw you, not since you started training to become a guard, I think?"
Brynn nodded, acknowledging the point.
"Are you enjoying it, then?"
She hesitated, her eyes flickering down to her sword. "Well, this is something I've always wanted to do," she replied neutrally.
"Well, it's a fairly unusual choice of career," said Mrs. Luxon. "There aren't many in Brightvale who want to take it up. If I recall correctly, you were the only one in your class who wanted to do something different."
"That's true," she said. She'd never been as intensely drawn to books and the pursuit of knowledge as some of her friends. The fact had inevitably placed her apart from the rest of her classmates, especially once they'd grown up. She'd never quite been part of world of research and desk jobs. She had thought that joining the guards would erase that sensation, she considered ruefully, but even among her fellow guards, she was still an outsider.
"Books and research aren't for everyone," said Mrs. Luxon, as if reading her thoughts. "Even if you do happen to live in Brightvale." She smiled at Brynn, and she smiled back, despite herself.
"I didn't know much about being a guard back then," she said, realising as she said it that it was absolutely true. In her visions of the future, this particular career path had carried the sheen of nobility. Her dreams had been devoid of the routine patrols of the city that made up most of her job. She'd imagined herself helping to save Neopia from danger, protecting innocent Neopians. She had imagined having a tale worth telling, something worthy of the Gallery of Heroes. Perhaps those notions were childish, she thought, but there was still times when she found herself wishing that she was doing something greater.
"Regardless of what you think now, what you're doing is necessary work," said Mrs. Luxon softly. "And at the end of the day, it's a worthwhile thing to be."
"Yes," Brynn said. "I suppose so. " She cleared her throat. "I think I just imagined myself doing more, that's all."
"You can't expect yourself to do the bigger things when you're just starting out," said Mrs. Luxon gently. "It's just important to keep working at it and enjoying what you do. It's the same for my job. Working at the library at night isn't exactly pleasant, you know." She smiled at her, appraising her expression through the semi-darkness. "Your day will come eventually. And if you ask me, being a guard suits you perfectly. "
Brynn grinned back, the vote of confidence sparking a burst of cheerfulness within her. "Thanks, Mrs. Luxon."
A soft breeze swept over them, ruffling Brynn's fur. ""Speaking of work," she said. "I should get back to my patrol."
'Sure, yes, of course," said Mrs. Luxon instantly, smiling apologetically. "You should stop by for a cup of tea some day, when you aren't busy. We should catch up properly." She waved and stepped back into the interior of the library, her hand on the door handle.
"Definitely," Brynn replied, waving back.
As the library door clicked shut behind her, she turned back to the road. This time however, it didn't seem so intimidating. Her conversation with her old acquaintance had ignited fresh resolve within her. She started walking with renewed energy, focussed on the work ahead of her. She was determined to do whatever was needed to do her duty and prove her worth, no matter how much time it took.
And maybe one day she would have her own unique story to tell.