“Trust it’s not the end, little brother, but a great beginning.”
Aaron smiled as he patted his younger brother on head, preparing to pack up his room for college. Liam, only a few years younger, was not so keen on the idea of his big brother leaving the house. More importantly, he hated the idea of being left in charge to cover down while Aaron was away. That was Aaron’s job, after all.
“C’mon Aaron, can’t you just stay here? I’m sure there are a lot of places much closer that would let you live at home.”
Aaron casually glanced out the window, watching the leaves sway back and forth as the cool summer winds brought with them the first vestiges of fall. Another sign of the changing times.
“Maybe they would let me stay, but this is a great opportunity. Don’t worry; I’m not going to forget about you and I won’t be gone forever! I’ll be home for the holidays and I have my phone. You can call me any time.”
“Yeah, I know… but it won’t be the same.”
Aaron took a seat on his bed, leaning back to survey the room as his little brother continued with the tedious chore of helping his brother pack. Aaron couldn’t help but think how much larger the room seemed now that it was so… empty.
“If you’re gonna make me do this, at least help out.”
Liam, though younger, wasn’t afraid to stand his ground. Something Aaron had taught him well. Liam thumped his brother on the knee, evoking an immediate reaction and causing Aaron to wrestle him to the ground. The two rolled around, each trying to stay clear of debris on the floor while at the same time trying to gain dominance and establish himself as the stronger one. They rolled into the closet, hitting the wall and knocking several trinkets off of the shelves. Aaron let Liam go as they got up to clean up the mess.
“Good job Liam.” Aaron shook his head.
“Not my fault.”
Liam started sifting through the clutter of fallen objects, trying to figure out what went where. It was then he came across a fond but forgotten memory from long ago.
“Hey, check this out!”
He waved his brother over, and together they looked over the objects. In his left hand Liam held an old decorative plastic shield that must’ve come from Halloween a few years back. With his right hand, Liam fingered the hilt of a play katana they often used when playing Cowboys and Indians (their mother had never had the heart to tell them they were playing it wrong). Liam handed them over to Aaron, who looked them over in pensive repose.
“Been a long time since you’ve seen those, huh?”
Aaron took to his feet, practicing his posture as he got a feel for his old keepsakes. Although it had been a while, dormant instincts began to kick-in. Aaron looked over to his brother.
“Do you remember the last time we played with these?”
“Yep. Back when we used to kill dragons.”
Liam watched the gleam in his brother’s eyes as he searched his own recollection for the event at hand. Slowly but surely he started to remember. Aaron pulled him up as they walked over to the bed and sat down, Aaron clearly ready to impart another one of his stories.
“You see little brother, back when we were kids…”
Liam’s imagination always created the most wondrous landscapes for his brother’s stories, and losing himself in them was by far his favorite hobby. He listened as Aaron described the thick brush and foliage that, during playtime, lined their back yard. Ordinary trees became majestic stalks of bright green and valiant mahogany towers, the hills became ever-expanding mountains, and the little pond quickly became a vast serene lake filled with the most fantastic of sea-faring creatures. There were numerous caves, castles, and fair maidens for the rescuing.
During one adventure, Sir Aaron had gone exploring deep into a dark slimy cave, covered in mildew and rotten breath. But Sir Aaron was unafraid, for he was a fearsome knight who had his legendary sword and shield prepared at the ready. He crept quietly (but bravely) in search of great treasures as commissioned by the king of the land, King Liam. Rumor around the kingdom was that a terrible dragon lurked within the cave, but no man ever returned to tell the tale. Sir Aaron was set on being the first. He deftly made his way through a cavern full of sleeping bats, narrow evaded traps that lined the floors and walls, and even managed to negotiate with a cave dweller for the secrets to the dragon’s weakness.
Sir Aaron continued on, slowly entering the dragon’s lair. He removed his helmet so that he might get a better view of the lustrous mound of gold that lay before him (for the gold was so bright it illuminated the entire cave). He could find no sight of the dragon anywhere and was grateful that his luck had so gracefully allowed him to come upon the cave while the dragon was away! Sir Aaron began to load up his bag so that he could bring proof to the king that he had found the treasure. He would need gather only a little for now, and could return later to tell the king that there was much more to retrieve.
Suddenly, Sir Aaron heard the loud rumbling of a large beast’s tail dragging down the corridor. The massive footsteps reverberated into the grand hall as the cave shook with each step. Though he had no desire to see what was next, Sir Aaron was a brave knight and would face his duty!
Sir Aaron turned to see the mighty dragon stand before him, fire curling off of its breath with fury rife in its eyes. Sir Aaron was valiant, but he knew that even he was no match for this mythic foe. The dragon swiped its ferocious claw across the ground, clattering gold coins all around. Luckily its arm was too short for its callow strikes to hit Sir Aaron, and it missed. The dragon then lunged forward with its large snout, trying to take a bite of our fearsome knight, but Sir Aaron again barely managed to avoid becoming a tasty snack. The dragon’s clever ways were not so simply undone, and it swiftly retorted by swinging its gargantuan tail. Sir Aaron fell back and knew he was in trouble, but had no options left. If he didn’t find help soon, he would surely be doomed.
Trying to come up with a plan, Sir Aaron watched as the dragon suddenly yelped out a tremendous dragon wail (not unlike an annoyed puppy) as it turned about, furious that someone would dare tug at its magnificent tail. As the dragon began to chase him, Sir Aaron could see the great King Liam running for his life! Unwilling to let any harm come to his liege, particularly after his own timely rescue, Sir Aaron chased after the dragon who no longer took any interest in him. The dragon cornered the nervous king and prepared to make his final blow.
The astute young knight found his opportunity and decided to take his chance. The unyielding Sir Aaron charged forward, running along the dragon’s tail all the way up its back, and leapt up into the air to make the killing blow. The weary fiend took a last shuddering roar before collapsing under the weight of Sir Aaron’s sword. He slew the fabled beast.
Sir Aaron climbed down off the giant lizard to greet the king, ever regal yet humbled by the heroics of his kingdom’s finest knight. They exchanged no words, but instead prided themselves over of the downfall of the mighty dragon, and re-entered it’s lair to claim their trophies. The royal knight and courageous king would then return to the kingdom with a hand full of gold and prepare for their next sovereign expedition.
“…and I think that’s the last time I ever used these.”
Aaron finished his story, bringing Liam out of his reverie and back to the moment at hand.
“How’re you going to tell me a story like that and then leave?”
Liam began rubbing his eyes, nostalgic now more than ever.
“Because it’s a reminder of what I’ve got planned next time I come home.”
“…really? Like what?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
Aaron took his brother close and hugged him, the younger brother’s nature inherently causing him to fight off the older, though he didn’t actually mind. They got up and finished closing up the boxes as their mother came upstairs to get them.
“Aaron, are you ready? It’s time to get going. Liam, help him carry those downstairs.”
She grabbed a box as Aaron picked one up and followed suit. Though reluctant, Liam grabbed the remaining box and followed them downstairs, not wanting to be left behind. They carried the boxes out to the car and loaded them up while Aaron and his mother said their goodbyes.
The brothers exchanged glances, knowing words could do them no justice and may only make things harder. Instead Aaron walked up to Liam and pulled out a small gift from behind his back. Aaron brandished his sword and shield for old time’s sake, before adjusting Liam’s posture a bit and handing them off to him.
“Take good care of these little brother. If you run into trouble you can use them to keep you and mom safe until I get back, alright?”
Liam let out a small sniffle, but kept a straight face as he accepted his gifts with honor. He was proud to stand up and take on the role his brother once held.
“I’ll keep her safe. I’ll be an even better knight than you were!” Liam’s pride unbound.
“Hope so, I better hear all about it. See you at Thanksgiving.”
With that Aaron got into his car, only briefly looking back before driving off. His mother and brother stood side-by-side watching him go. They stood there until his car disappeared beyond the hill, at which point Liam’s mother felt the need to ask about the plastic weaponry.
“Liam sweetie, what’re those for?”
Liam stood tall with dignity, ready to assume his new post. He replied without hesitation.