Rabu the Innocent
Bimeny watched Halgreth and Mantu’s promise made official from a nearby rooftop. Will it ever be like this for me? Will I always be in hiding, watching the lives of those I love from a roof top? I’m alone now. I have to fix it. I just want to rest. I’m tired of it and it has only just begun.
What bothered Bimeny most was that he had never felt this "all alone" in all of his life. There was always someone around to talk to, to share things with. Although flying was wonderful, it also gave him a lot of time to think.
Will there be a Halgreth for me someday? Will I live long enough to find out? Is there someone tough enough to withstand the pinch of my plates? Someone who I can cuddle with and not cause injury? And what about kids? Figuring out how everything worked with women was difficult before I was armor-plated.
"Too much thinking!" Bimeny screamed into the heavens as he soared higher in the sky.
I’ve only been alone for a few hours and it’s already made me insane. Thirsty, there, a stream, nicely wooded all around. Maybe some berries.
He still had to figure out where he was going and what he was going to do when he got there. He really hadn’t been too far from home before, so he had no idea where the next town was. He knew the general direction, and as long as he stayed sunpath along the base of the mountains he would find them all. But what to do then was the question. He couldn’t just go in and burn down entire towns. And how could he find the one he was looking for? The one who ordered the assassins to kill him. The one they call Morgreth.
He thought about it while he was looking for berries. He was glad it was fall. Berries were plentiful; but what would he do when winter set in? He no longer felt the cold or the heat of the day. That was a bit of the blessing. He always felt just right. He didn’t mind that part so much, but there were things he didn’t care for. The colors weren’t so bright anymore to his eyes, they were all muted. And the night vision made it hard to sleep sometimes, especially when both moons shone on a cloudless sky. It was almost like midday all night then. That bothered him a bit, especially when he had always liked the two moons and often marveled at how clearly he could see them. They were always a source of fascination for him. Now they were just an annoyance.
But he had to figure out how to feed himself. He had Gandoo’s bow and quiver. He had to make a special sling for the bow, quiver and his pack that would not interfere with his wings. He had to figure out how to use the bow while in flight. The bow was well known and it was key to making his point to the guard. He had the bow, so he alone must be responsible for Gandoo’s death.
Bimeny also realized that he was going to have to find a safe place to sleep, a base of operations, so to speak, someplace to be safe while he sorted things out. But the very first thing he needed to do was draw the attention away from Haven Plat, so that they would not go after Mantu. He needed a plan. He flew sunpath along the base of the mountains until he saw the first town. He didn’t know the name of it, but this would be where the two guards that he and Mantu killed came from and where he returned their bodies to. He landed outside the town, so he could find out the name without drawing too much attention.
He wandered up to a farmhouse where he saw three little kids playing. "Hi," he said to a little girl and her two friends. The first little girl he spoke to had freckles which were accented by her red hair. Even with Bimeny’s diminished color vision, he knew it was flaming red. She seemed to be about nine storms old, and the other little brown haired girl about ten. The little boy was younger and probably the brother of the little red haired girl, because he had the same red curly hair that the first girl had. He looked around eight and appeared happy to see another guy. It looked like the girls were about to play dress up and he wasn’t overly excited at the prospects.
"Hello," the girl said, shading her eyes from the sun so she could see who was speaking to her better.
"Can you tell me what town this is up ahead?" Bimeny asked.
"It’s Raven Plat," the little girl said, "everyone knows that."
"Not me, I’m from a different town." Bimeny said, smiling.
"That explains why you dress so funny. Does everyone wear turtles where you come from?" she asked, looking him up and down.
"No," Bimeny said with an amused chuckle, remembering that Reentu thought he had a tux made of turtles too, "just me. Well, thanks," he said as he turned away, leaned forward and pushed off. He looked back and saw that his departure left them hooting and waving in excitement. He knew they were going to tell their parents that they had just spoken to a boy dressed in turtles clothes, who just up and sprouted wings and flew away. He laughed because he knew how unbelievable it was going to be. He made a mental note to fly over their farmhouse if he ever had the chance again.
So he flew high over Raven Plat until he saw the cart he sent the dead guards back in parked in front of rows of buildings. It must be the Garrison. But what should he do to make his whereabouts and his intentions known? Who was the town elder here? He looked at the houses around town and saw the biggest one, the one with a wall around it like Gandoo’s, and sentries. Yep! This was the place. But not yet, not now. Later in the dark, when he had the advantage.
Bimeny landed behind some buildings on the outskirts of town. He slipped on some pants and a shirt so he would not be so conspicuous, and stashed his pack in a woodpile, then he walked into town. He still drew looks, but not like he would have without the clothes. People were still squinting to see what he was wearing. "Excuse me," he said to a young boy who was combing a horse. "Can you tell me who your elder is and how do I find their house?"
"Yes," said the boy. "That would be Merabeth. You can find her home past the Garrison to the golden colored wall. From there, you can see the gate plainly."
"Thank you," Bimeny said, and he walked quickly away. He was starting to draw some unwanted looks from some passers-by and the boy’s horse was getting out of hand.
Apparently, even though this was some ways from Haven Plat, word of the dragon boy had even reached the ears of people in Raven Plat. He left the way he came and quickly removed his clothes. "Stupid!" he thought. If he had been caught, he could not fly with his shirt on. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. He made up his mind to find a balaclava as soon as he could. That was something he could shed in a hurry and still look like he belonged. Especially with winter coming and cooler days were ahead. It would look more natural.
Bimeny flew back to the forest, figuring that he would wait until dark. To do what? He just wasn’t sure. But he knew he had the darkness on his side if anything went bad.
Bimeny found a berry patch full of lovely blackberries. He ate them as fast as he picked them. He liked berries but was getting hungry for some meat. Money wasn’t the problem as he had some from home, but he wasn’t the least conspicuous person in the store and when you’re trying to be invisible, being conspicuous is not a good thing.
Finally, night started to fall. With all the mountains, the sun set quickly and it would be some time before the twin moons rose, so the darkest part of the night was that time between sunset and moonrise. Bimeny planned to use this time towards his advantage. He flew up into the night and over the edge of town to the house that was pointed out to be the elder’s. He silently glided in for a soft landing on the patio. It was mostly covered but for a small area that was probably used for those days when they wanted to sit in the warmth of the sun. Bimeny’s velvety soft wings were silent even in flight, so they were perfect for stealth. (He still wasn’t sure where they went, but he pretty much stopped chasing his tail trying to find out.)
Bimeny walked up to a window and peeked in. He saw nothing, not a person around. He moved around to all the windows that he could see from the patio and no one was there. He leaned forward and gently pushed off and hovered in front of each window until he found one that had a person in it. He could see their heat signature under the blankets. But this person was too small to be the elder. Could the elder have a child? Somehow, the thought that the elder who dispatched the guards had a young child infuriated Bimeny. Somehow, knowing that the elder had family and still sent the assassins to kill them all made him really angry. He wanted to kill the child so the elder would know the pain. He wanted them to see their child killed before their very eyes so they would know the pain that he felt.
He pushed the window open and landed with one foot on the window sill and the other dangling over the outside edge. His wings folded themselves away as he stepped inside and made his way to the edge of the bed. He gently pulled the covers back and looked at this child he was about to kill in front of its mother. But there in front of him was the cutest little boy he thought he had ever seen. He must have been only four or five storms old. He was sleeping so peacefully. Bimeny felt his anger slipping away. This child had nothing to do with his parents’ deaths. Nothing to do with any of it. But he had to. He had to do it! He had to teach his mother a lesson! He thought for a moment and then he had an idea. He wrapped the boy in a blanket and carried him to the window. He pulled the blanket over the sleeping boy’s face, turned his head, and spit a ball of fire which instantly engulfed the entire room in flames.
Bimeny leaned forward, and gently pushed off with the little boy in his arms. He flew over the wall and found a barn with the loft door open. He entered the loft and found a nice pile of hay to lay the boy down in. Bimeny couldn’t believe that he had slept through it all. He never awoke once. Bimeny covered the boy with hay to keep him warm and flew out the front, and back towards the elder’s house, where activity was high, trying to effect a rescue and put out the fire.
He landed and walked up to the water trough and spit in it. It immediately burst into flames, and those trying to dip pails in it moments before were driven back. He flew up to the burning window and into the room which was fully engaged in fire. He walked toward the door and through the wall of flames where he saw those trying desperately to put the fire out.
When they saw him walk out of the fire, they backed away. Many ran. Bimeny just kept walking forward as he backed them down the steps. Two guards who were helping to put the fire out advanced on Bimeny. He turned his head and belched a great ball of fire on the first one, who retreated screaming, as the pain of the flames tortured him. He was catching more of the house on fire as he bounced off of walls in his mad frenzy of pain. Bimeny just looked at the other guard, who turned and ran as fast as he could.
Bimeny looked at the man and the women standing in front of him, the ones who were closest to the fire. He said, "I am here to see Merabeth. Are you she?" he asked the woman.
"Yes," she replied. Bimeny started towards her, "I am Bimeny from Haven Plat. The one you sent your assassins to kill. The one who had two loving parents who held no guilt, which you sentenced to death, without even a public audience. You have turned my own brother against me and have left me alone because the storm made me this way. Well, I have come for retribution and found that you have a son! What a treat for me to have a son to take from you. Shall I tell you how he died? I woke him from his sleep and as he stood in terror, I belched a small amount of fire all the way around his bed. He had nowhere to go. He watched and waited as the flames came toward him, feeling the heat, knowing there was no escape, too frightened to even scream, until he screamed in agony as the flames started to burn his bedclothes. He choked on the smoke as it burned his throat. He writhed in pain as the flames burned away his hair and burned his eyes and face. He screamed for quite some time as I watched."
The woman had tears streaming down her face. She screamed, "Rabu!" and fell to her knees sobbing. "Not my Rabu! Oh please, say it isn’t true. You monster! How could you do that to my little boy?" she screamed. Bimeny leaned forward until he was inches from her face and smiled, "It was easy, all I had to do was remember my mother’s eyes. Morgreth is who I am going to go and kill next. She ordered it. But you allowed it to happen and you did nothing but follow her instructions blindly. Or was it your idea to kill everyone?" At that, he grabbed her by her arm and stood her up.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned his head and looked at the assailant. His eyes burned with red flames as the assailant’s eyes met his. "I won’t let you hurt her," he said. It was apparently her husband, the boy’s father.
"You can do nothing to stop me," Bimeny said and as he did, the man thrust forward with a knife, which glanced off of Bimeny’s scales. Bimeny grabbed the man’s hand, holding the knife, and blasted his hand with flames. The response was immediate. He opened his burning hand and dropped the knife. Still holding the woman’s arm, Bimeny reached down and picked up the knife.
He looked at the woman and then back to the blade. It would be so easy to just stab her. Then he saw the little boy’s face in his mind. Bad or not, she was his mother. There was no other. Bimeny blew a hot flame on the knife until it was red hot. Then he held her hand up and laid the blade across her palm, as he looked her in the eyes and said, "This is so that every time you use this hand, you will remember my mother and father and what you did to them." He pushed the screaming woman back towards the door, looked around him and said, "Out!" With that, he blew flames around the entire downstairs and walked out of the door. With that, he leaned forward and flew off into the night.
He flew over the barracks where the guard was scrambling to go assist in putting out the fire. Bimeny flew down behind the barracks and sneaked into one of the back doors. He looked around until he found the storehouse and found some jerked meat. He quickly shoved several large pieces into his mouth, and grabbed a bag and started to fill it, when suddenly someone yelled, "Hey! What are you doing?" It was a guard, and with that, Bimeny spat out the meat and blasted the front door with flames.
Then he stuffed the bag faster. The flames may not have hurt him but they would surely destroy the bag, and with it the food. He grabbed another bag and scooped rice into it. He grabbed another and filled it with beans. He stuffed all three bags into one larger, grabbed a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese, and made for the door. As he burst through the door, he felt a rat-tat-tat on his chest. "Archers!" he said to himself and he ducked around the corner and leaned forward and gently took flight. He would have blasted them, but he had another mouth full of jerked meat, and he just didn’t want to give that up.
Bimeny flew moonpath toward the mountains until he was out of sight of the townsfolk. He doubled back so he could watch the mayhem that he had just created unfold. He watched for a while from a rooftop down the road. He hid in the shadow of the chimney. After everything had died down, Bimeny was starting to feel exhausted. He decided that he had better head back to the barn where he left the boy sleeping. He silently landed in the loft and carefully uncovered the bundle to make sure his captive was still sleeping. He was. Bimeny lay down next to him and silently closed his eyes.
"Hey! How did I get here? Who are you?" came a voice breaking through Bimeny’s sleep.
He was awake instantly. "Hi, everything is alright. I’m Bimeny. Your Mom asked me to bring you here because there was a fire in the kitchen last night. Don’t you remember?" Bimeny asked like he should know.
"Uh...no, I was sleeping. Where’s mother?" he asked.
"She is taking care of stuff. There were a lot of people who needed help. Are you hungry?" Bimeny asked to change the subject.
"Yes," came the reply.
"Good, here is some bread and cheese. When you are done, then I’ll take you back home, alright?" Bimeny asked.
"Okay," the little guy said. "How’s come you wear turtles?" he asked.
"I’m a dragon boy!" Bimeny said, expecting to shock him.
"Oh, I’m Rabu. Don’t you mean a dragon girl?" the boy asked looking first to Bimeny’s waistline, then back to his face.
"Uh...no, I meant dragon boy, not girl." Bimeny said, slightly annoyed.
"But you can’t be a boy...."
Bimeny cut him off. "Look, you’re just going to have to trust me on this. I am really a dragon boy. Want some more cheese?" Bimeny asked.
"No thanks, I’m full," came the reply.
"Are you ready to go then, Rabu?" Bimeny asked.
"Yes, I can’t wait to see mother." Rabu said.
"Good, then come over here." Bimeny said, and he moved to the front of the loft.
"Why? The steps are over there," Rabu said.
"We’re not using the steps," Bimeny said. "We’re going to fly."
"No way!" Rabu said, "Show me your wings." With that, Bimeny leaned forward and gently pushed off, hovering right there in front of Rabu.
"Cool! Do I have them too?" Rabu asked.
"No, just dragon boys get them, but I’ll hold you really tight and we can fly together." Bimeny reached down and picked Rabu up, moved over to the haystack, and reached down and grabbed the blanket. "It may be cold when we’re flying," he said to Rabu, and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and then gently flew out the front door of the loft. He gained altitude quickly and headed back towards the elder’s house.
The morning chill set in and Rabu said, "I’ve got to go!" Bimeny panicked and zoomed right to the top of a hill that was lightly wooded. He landed and pointed to a clump of trees. Rabu wasted no time. Bimeny figured he’d better do the same, so he went and took care of business also. They were back in the air in just a few moments and headed for town.
Bimeny asked Rabu, "Where do you think your mother and father would stay if they couldn’t stay in your house?"
Rabu thought for a moment and said, "Probably Aunt Ralth’s house. It is just next door." Rabu said.
"Fine, then I’ll take you there." Bimeny said.
The flight was short and Bimeny came in for a landing right in front of the door to Rabu’s aunt’s house. Bimeny knocked. The door was opened almost immediately. There was a middle aged woman with a dirty face and hands. Her apron was also dirty and had blood stains on it. Still holding Rabu, he looked at the woman and asked, "May I come in?" She looked at him in terror and then looked at Rabu and backed away from the door motioning him to come in.
He could see the look of fear in her eyes. She was afraid he came to do harm to the boy in front of them. Bimeny said, "If I meant to harm him, it would have already been done. He is safe. I want to see his mother." She disappeared from the room in a flash and reappeared with Merabeth in tow. She looked worn. It was obvious that she had not slept. Her hand was bandaged. She looked into his eyes and then at Rabu in his arms and tears sprang forth as she reached for him, pausing, trying to decide if she was permitted as she looked at Bimeny. He handed Rabu to his mother, who hugged her son and smothered him in kisses.
She looked at Bimeny, "Why?" she said, "why did you do this?" she asked.
"You had to know the pain that you caused. It was the only way I could show you. He had no part in it. I couldn’t hurt him." He grabbed her arm and squeezed it, looking her in the eyes. "But understand—that even though my brother blames me for the death of my mother and father, I still love him. If anything happens to him, I will come back and I will not have any mercy at all. You send a messenger to Morgreth and tell her that I am coming for her, and there is nothing she can do about it. And remember what I said about my brother, Mantu." He turned and started to leave.
"Wait!" Merabeth said, and she went forward and hugged Bimeny. "Thank you," she said. "I’m so sorry about your family. I deal with crop allocations and leave those mystical storm things to Gandoo and Morgreth. I house a garrison here, but I just send them were I am asked. I didn’t even know we had assassins. Please sit and tell me about it. I will make some tea." Bimeny could not believe what was happening. The same woman he tried to kill last night invited him for tea. He was stunned. He looked out the window to see if a garrison was forming up around the house or something. There was no one. He looked back at the woman and she put two cups on the table and went to light the stove. "Darn," she said, "Ralth, where do you keep the flame starters?" she asked of the woman in the next room. Bimeny walked over and lifted the lid from the wood stove and gave a little spit, which burst into flames. She stepped back with a little worried look on her face.
The act made her a little nervous, but she forced a little smile and said, "Neat little talent you have there. Bet it gives you grief when you get a cold." Bimeny smiled a little and sat down. There was little said while waiting for the water to boil. Bimeny kept looking out the window. Why he was still there, he just wasn’t sure. Why was he going to sit and have tea with a woman whose house he’d just burned to the ground? Surely she wasn’t interested in his side of the story, and he really didn’t trust the tea. Why was he still there? He should bolt and run, he thought to himself, and his eyes flicked to the door as she poured water into his cup. Merabeth wouldn’t let Rabu go. She examined him closely as she waited for the tea. She asked Rabu where he had been. Rabu explained that they stayed in a barn. It seemed she could read Bimeny’s mind as she watched him checking outside through the window.
"There is no one coming for you. I’ve seen to that," she said. "You are wondering why I want to have tea with you, after you burned down my house, aren’t you?" She asked.
"Yes." Bimeny said directly. Somehow, he liked this woman. She was straightforward. Very direct. Very much like... his mother. He felt a lump start to form in his throat again and turned his head, slightly ashamed of what he had done. She was no more responsible for all this than Rabu.
Merabeth spoke slowly and directly to Bimeny, "You could have easily killed my son and didn’t. You couldn’t be more than fifteen, and you have lost your entire family. This tells me you are not a murderer. You are either afraid or angry or both. I want to know what drove you to do this. Something is terribly wrong and I am part of it. I need to know what the truth is, and I think you are the only one who can or will tell me truly."
"But I told you that I killed your son, I burned your house and even burned...your hand," he said as he turned away, now feeling like he wished he could cry. He wanted her to know he was wrong and ashamed. He looked at her. His face scrunched up. He said as he choked on the words. "The worst thing about all this is that I can no longer cry. The storm left me without tears. I am so sorry for what I have done to you and your family. I thought you were responsible. I didn’t know." And with that, she held him to her breast as only a mother could. Bimeny would stay there forever, given the chance. Oh, how he wished he could cry. It would all be better if he could just let some of it go. But it wasn’t to be. He sat up and reached for his cup.
She put her hand on his shoulder and said, "It’s going to be alright."
He looked at her and said, "No, it’s not. Not ever again. Not for me. I’ve killed Gandoo and almost killed you. They’re not going to turn that loose."
Merabeth sat down across from him and looked at him. "Tell me the story from beginning to end and don’t leave out the slightest detail."
Bimeny took a sip of his tea; it was good. He took a deep breath and began to tell Merabeth all about the storm and Raleck and the attack and then school and then about Mantu and then about the summons. He told her how Malageth was concerned and even afraid and how he foolishly was excited at the prospect of meeting the great elder and about how he wanted to kill Bimeny and when confronted, he even went so far as to tell him it was his duty, like he was expected to do himself up if asked. Then he told her about the escape and the killing and the return home. Then he slowed down as he recounted the events of the previous week and how he found Malageth protecting Reentu, and the cuts on her arms where she fought the assassins before they killed her. All this he recounted as he stared at the floor, but seeing only the face of his mother in his mind. He heard Merabeth sniff and looked up as she pulled a well-used handkerchief from her apron pocket and dabbed her eyes as she listened.
He hadn’t decided whether or not to tell her that Mantu didn’t really blame him, but that it was a pretense to protect him and Halgreth. He decided that it was best to leave it the way it was.
Merabeth kept her silence until he was finished. He could see she was shaken by the whole story and that she had not expected the brutality of it all. She was plainly overwhelmed with it all. She looked at him, trying to decide what to do. He just sat there and sipped his tea.
"I need some time," she said. "I need some time to sort it all out. Can you come back in a few days?" she asked. "I would offer you quarters, but as you can see, I am, myself, without any. There must be something I can do to try and make this right. I need to talk to my husband. He will know what to do."
Bimeny said, "Sure, three days," and he turned and walked towards the door.
As he reached for the door knob she said, "Wait. Listen, try not to burn anyone or anything until we speak again, okay?" she smiled.
"Okay," he said, and he turned the knob and opened the door.
Just then, Rabu came running in. "Are we ready to go?" he said, taking Bimeny’s hand. "I like flying."
Bimeny smiled and said, "That’s all for now, but if you are good and your mother says it is okay, then I will take you for a little flight when I come back. Okay?" Bimeny said as he smiled and started to pull the door open.
But Rabu wasn’t going to let go, "Oh, please, just a little one," he said, now giving Bimeny those well-practiced puppy eyes. Bimeny looked to Merabeth and gave her a quizzical tilt of his head. She smiled and said, "Sure, but just a little one."
Bimeny scooped him up, walked out the door, and leaned forward and took flight with Merabeth watching. He zoomed high and right through a big puffy cloud, and when they came out the other side, they were soaked from the moisture in the cloud that was beckoning for a place to dump its load. Rabu’s teeth were chattering, and Bimeny realized that although he didn’t feel it, the air was probably pretty cold, so he dove for the ground. He set his wings flat and swept back. The ground was coming up fast. Rabu was squealing with excitement. The air was warm again and he could feel the wet clothes on the boy going dry again. He leveled off across the ground, headed back for the house. When he came over the town, people gasped and pointed. The garrison was sounding the alarm and mobilizing. Bimeny said, "Oh-oh, we’d better hurry," and zoomed back to where Merabeth was waiting.
After dropping Rabu off to his mother, who laughed looking at him, because his hair was standing up and dried pointing back from the wind, Bimeny looked at her smiling and said, "Look, I have to go. You’re about to get a lot company. I forgot to mention that I also burned down one of your garrison buildings and stole some food for us last night. The garrison is on its way and they are not quite as forgiving as you are, I don’t think. See you in three days." And he leaned forward, his wings appeared, and he was gone just as the garrison arrived. The archers hurried knocked up arrows but it was too late, he was out of range. Merabeth offered no explanation as they looked to her. She just turned with little Rabu in tow and went back inside of the house. The Guard returned to their garrison. Bimeny was right, they weren’t the forgiving kind.