Kaeli was writing a letter to Reuben, to ask him to come to Aquaria in the summer. Three years of friendship were behind them. The two got to know each other in Windia after the defeat of the Dark King. Reuben interested her immediately: he was charming, handsome and, best of all, he was about her age. When Benjamin and Phoebe went to fight the last of the demon forces in the land, they started talking. And, amazingly enough, their conversation back then was one of the things Kaeli remembered the best.
- "Reuben, how come we've never met before? I mean, Benjamin surely must have..."
- "No, wait a minute there now. Benjamin HAS talked about you, a million times perhaps! He's really, really fond of you: his face seemed to lighten up every time you were mentioned... And I think that he's absolutely right. You're a very extraordinary girl and I'm sure that your intelligence overcomes even mine."
- "That couldn't be hard..."
- "What's that supposed to mean?! Are you saying... Well, I'll be..."
- "Seriously, Reuben, don't you recognise subtle humour? I was just kidding. You're really nice, I can understand Benjamin likes you. You're a real good friend to him, he always brags about your cool Morning Star and your awesome armor."
Kaeli still smiled when she thought of that conversation. That's how a wonderful friendship started. And since that day, three years ago, they frequently visited each other. Or Phoebe invited them for a swim in the summer. Or Otto did. All that was possible again from the day that Benjamin brought peace and calm to the land again. Too bad that he wasn't around to enjoy that peace himself...
Kaeli still remembered Benjamin's visit to her house when he came to borrow her father's ship. When he suddenly knocked on their door, her heart missed a beat and she started feeling really excited. Benjamin came to visit her! So she was deepl! y disappointed when he said he came to ask her father's permission to use his ship. She had, however, seen him blush when she looked at him directly, and his nervousness around her. She knew Reuben was right, then. He was indeed really fond of her and it was showing.
Her last few doubts were wiped away when he left. He shook Spencer's hand, gave Reuben a friendly pat on the shoulder, shook hands with Phoebe, and eventually he came towards her.
- "Benjamin... I-I'll miss you..."
- "Me too, Kaeli, me too."
- "Promise me you'll come back... to me..."
- "Kaeli, I swear on my sword and armor: I'll return to this land...", he said, then he kissed her softly on her cheek and whispered in her ear: "...for you, I'll do anything!" She had never felt so in love as then, when he had softly given her that sweet kiss. She cried; his eyes sparkled as well. And she could see him looking at her even when he was sailing out of sight.
But that was already such a long time ago. She had always thought about him for those long, long months. Her heart was really empty, and her feeling of loneliness was only relieved by Reuben's warm friendship... and Benjamin's oath to return to her... She sighed, and for a moment the fatal words sneaked into her mind: "Maybe he has forgotten me..." She had resisted to even think that way for a long time, but at a certain point, she couldn't resist any longer. The thought was devastating her heart. Nevertheless, amidst all opposing thoughts, in her heart burned a bright flame of love for Benjamin: that flame would never die. And neither would her faith in his promise.
Reuben and Kaeli met a month later, in Aquaria's inn. After getting their rooms, they went to the lake, together with Phoebe. In the summer, the water was amazingly cool and many came from the countryside to the city to swim in the deep blue ponds. The great lake in the city was the most visited one: and once every summer, the group would gather there for two weeks. Besides Kaeli and Reuben, Phoebe had invited Otto and his daughter, Norma. Spencer usually joined them, but this year he was ill and couldn't go outside. In the three past years, Norma had grown like crazy and she was now even taller than her father. Kaeli felt a little out-grown, but she was still stronger than Reuben, although he was only one year younger than her. Phoebe didn't care for strength and age: she was twenty-four, nearly twenty-five, and her tasks were very heavy. It left her no choice but to act like the mature woman she was, no time or room for childish behavior. And yet, you couldn't see the great burden on her shoulders was pressing her mood down. She held her head up high for the rest of the world. She was a strong woman, and Kaeli's great example.
Her thoughts were interrupted by the splash Phoebe made by jumping into the cool lake. Reuben pushed her in before jumping in himself, but she got her revenge by pushing him under the surface. His blond hair glittered when he re-surfaced, and spashed water over her. Phoebe swam calmly towards them, but was also given a splash or ten. She joined in on the game, and so did Otto and Norma after a while. Just when they were having fun, a messenger from Windia arrived.
- "Otto, sir, a ship has arrived. We need your presence in Windia."
- "Allright, I'll come as soon as possible..." With a sigh Otto dried himself, put his clothes back on and left. Reuben and Kaeli began splashing each other again, but the fun was gone. soon, they, Phoebe and Norma went! back to Phoebe's house.
- "Wow, since when is a ship in the Windia port so important?", spoke Norma amazed when they sat down that night with a cup of evergreen-plant tea.
- "I don't know, Norma. Maybe we should go and see what is so important... Reuben, Kaeli, what do you think?"
- "That's a good idea", they both said simultaneously.
- "But not tonight," continued Kaeli, "we should sleep now. I'm tired..." She yawned. "Reuben, are you coming with me?" Reuben hurried to the door and left with her.
In the inn, Kaeli was just falling asleep when she heard a short knock on her door. Reuben came in, with an expression of great knowledge and seriousness. Somehow, it didn't misfit him.
- "Kaeli, I know what you hope. You're hoping this is Benjamin's ship, isn't it?"
- "Of course. He promised he'd return. He swore!"
- "And I don't doubt that he'd keep that promise. Just... don't get your hopes up too high. It might be him, but it also might not be him. Or maybe he has met someone on his journeys..."
- "Reuben, I'll see so in the morning. Go to sleep and don't worry about me, I'm fine. I'm lucky to have a caring friend such as you... You're an angel. Goodnight!"
- "Yeah, sleep tight!"
The next day, the four of them went through the underground tunnel to Windia. Passing over the Rainbow Bridge, they saw the beautiful ship lying in the port docks. Kaeli's heart seemed to leap out of her chest: it was her father's ship! Benjamin had returned! Reuben saw the delight on her face and grabbed hold of her hand. She knew what he was trying to say and immediately calmed herself down. They went directly to Otto's house, who had great news for them.
- "Hello, friends! boy, do I have some good news! Benjamin and Tristam have returned from their journeys. And, however hard to believe, one of them has got married!"
- "Wow, that's GREAT news, Otto!", shouted Phoebe. No one seemed to notice Kaeli's heart breaking. One of them was married... Her thoughts raced in her head, all of them starting with "Maybe...". A silent tear ran down her cheek. Reuben saw it and catched it with his fingertip. he knew how heart-broken she was. Why, sometimes he had wished that Benjamin would never return. Just so he could spend some time with Kaeli... But now, seeing the tear glitter on his hand, he wished that Kaeli would find happiness.
- "Dad, won't we give them a "Welcome Home"-party?"
- "But, sure we will, Norma! That's a fabulous idea! You're all invited. Go get your stuff, you can stay here in my house. I'll tell them of your great plan!"
Benjamin looked out of the window of his room, to the people passing by. He had travelled for three years across the world, seeing richesses of unknown proportions and beauty everywhere. He and his stoleaway partner, Tristam... who had snuck onto the ship to accompany him to that great world outside... His thoughts halted immediately when he saw a familiar girl pass by. Kaeli hadn't changed that much in those years: her long, flowing green dress; her flaming red hair, slightly curling; her brown eyes that radiated warmth... He hadn't forgotten her, and the promise he'd made back then. Her eyes had sparkled when she said good-bye. And he sharply remembered the soft kiss he had given her. He loved her, and the sight of that beautiful girl awakened his heart's deepest and warmest fire. He watched her going to Aquaria over the Rainbow Bridge, and he made the decision to tell her how he felt...
That night, the party was held. Tristam had accepted the party immediately, and Benjamin... Well, Benjamin had been gloomy all the way around the world, according to Tristam. Between Tristam and Benjamin stood a stunningly beautiful woman: she looked around, amazed by the many friends gathered there. Her long, silky, black hair was decorated with jewels and her clothing was made of an extremely expensive-looking red fabric. And although she looked rather exotic in the company, she spoke the common language very well. Kaeli felt jealousy sting in her heart. Never could she compete with women like that one! How could she still be loved by Benjamin if he had met women more beautiful than her?
Finally, when all of the invited arrived, Benjamin started telling the story.
- "We've travelled everywhere, from lands where sweet fruits are grown in beautiful gardens to lands where deserts stretch for miles. We've seen treasures more beautiful than ever imagined, we've seen fighters armored with strange helmets and shields. And we even have a surprise..." He nodded towards Tristam, who spoke in a serene, but familiar way.
- "I, having a reputation among all of you for my thieving skills and my great dislike to settle, have married this gorgeous girl. She is called Serena and was raised in a land where the sun never ceases to shine. I hope you'll all like her, the kid over here did. Yeah, we've had some pretty cool adventures back there... We've fought the remains of the demon forces, and, well, now we're world heroes!"
- "I am, anyway.", replied Benjamin. He looked at Kaeli but turned his gaze away whenever she looked at him. His shy nature made it difficult to tell her the truth, and she wasn't making it any easier for him. Finally, he decided to go outside for a while. He saw Reuben standing outside, polishing his armor. Maybe he needed some advice, some news...
Kaeli saw Benjamin snea! king out. The whole night, he avoided her, never looking at her longer than one second. And her hope was pressured. She felt rather down and went outside, too, to get some fresh air and to go for a walk. She walked to the back of the house but stopped as she heard a conversation.
- "Reuben, what should I do?! I don't know anything anymore. She's become so beautiful, and her father says she has talked about me every day..."
- "So... Stop saying you don't know what to do and do SOMETHING! She has been in love with you for a very long time, she still is. For God's sake, man, you shouldn't hesitate! She is all that matters to you, I can feel it: Kaeli feels the same way about you. Go to her and tell her everything. Don't break her heart by being so silent and avoiding!"
- "I... I..."
- "It's obvious you two have strong feelings for each other. Now, go in there and conquer her heart!"
- "Reuben... Thanks a lot. You're a good friend to Kaeli to tell me to keep her happy."
- "Benjamin, I'm only telling you to make Kaeli happy because she'll never be happy with me. Nor with anyone else."
- "I wouldn't allow Kaeli to have another."
Kaeli's heart nearly stopped. She ran back inside and sat down on a chair, next to Phoebe. Phoebe, who smiled towards her, had noticed the delighted look in her eyes. She knew immediately that it was for Benjamin. Yes, she had seen the kiss he gave her before he left; and she had seen them look at each other that day. She whispered her good advice to Kaeli, who heard it although not by Phoebe: it was Kaeli's own heart telling her: "Don't give up hope: Benjamin and you are in love! Go to him and tell him everything!" She saw Reuben enter the house again, alone. Slowly but sure, she walked towards him.
- "Reuben, have you seen Benjamin around?"
- "Uh, he's outside, behind the house." He suddenly stopped, re! alising she had overheard his conversation with his friend. "You'll know why he's eager to speak to you?"
- "Yes, Reuben. Don't worry, I'm perfectly fine. I'm happy."
Slowly, they neared each other. Benjamin was picking some flowers in the meadows of the docks, hoping she'd like them; Kaeli was going to the docks to look at her father's ship once more. They ran into each other by surprise. They stood there, saying nothing. Benjamin kissed her again, and Kaeli put her arms around his shoulders. There were no words necessary: their hearts had spoken. The flowers fell out of Benjamin's hands: they didn't notice it at all.
- "Benjamin, why didn't you tell me? For how long did you feel this way about me?"
- "It started when you fell into my arms after we beated that Minotaur in the Level Woods. You looked so fragile, so dependant, that i swore to myself never to let anything har you again. Later, when you talked to that tree in the Alive Forest, I suddenly realised your grace, your beauty, your intelligence... all of them had made me fall in love with you. Well, I nver would have suspected you to feel the same way too..."
- "When I fell into your arms back there in the Level Woods, I loved you as a caring friend. But when you came to get me in Aquaria, I felt that you were more than just a friend. You're brave, strong and wise. You're a hero, but what i felt back there wasn't hero admiration: it was love. And I didn't realise that until Reuben told me that you loved me, when you were fighting in the Doom Castle. I've always remembered your promise. Never did I doubt you, Benjamin."
- "I told you back then, and I'm telling you again: For you, Kaeli, I'd return from the dead, I'd kill ten more Dark Kings, I'd..."
He was stopped in the middle of a sentence by kaeli's kiss. Only this time their love, burning brightly in their hearts, grew and shone through the night. Their hands automatically found each other; still holding her hands, Benjamin knelt before her.
- "Kaeli, here I am, back from my journey. I've grown older in soul and mind. I'! ve seen many other women, beautiful and intelligent like no other... But you are the one that kept me happy during the lonely nights, you were my destination. I swore to my sword and armor that I would return to you when I left. Now I swear again, and this time my oath contains far more... I hereby swear to the holy Crystals of the Earth that I will not rest before I have conquered your heart and have made you mine."
- "You have always had my heart, Benjamin, and you know well enough of that."
- "I'll need a strong woman to stand by my side, a wise woman to aid me... and a loving wife. Never will I find one stronger than you, for you aided me the best in battles with even the fiercest of monsters. There is no one wiser than you, for the Giant Tree in the Alive Forest would only speak to you. And we love each other, more than anything else in the world. Kaeli, I want you to be my wife, for you are everything I seek in a woman. To me, you're perfection. Will you marry me?"
She didn't answer him immediately. First, she told him to stand up again. Her hands still placed in his, she whispered him a poem:
"No one can replace
the sun's warmth and light,
but even that is useless
without love shining bright..."
Her eyes sparkled once again and Benjamin felt the need to be with her forever. And he knew she felt it too.
- "Benjamin, you already know the answer. We'll be perfect as husband and wife." And she rested her head against his armor. There they stood for a while before heading back to the inn...
The wedding took place in Foresta, whereupon the quiet city seemed to turn into the livingplace of a fairy. Kaeli wore a light green dress, adorned with shining jewels and sparkling threads of gold and silver fabric. Benjamin wore his armor, but for the occasion borrowed a mantle from Tristam: a beautiful deep purple one, made of a thin fabric that glittered and shone in even the slightest of sunrays. It was already evening when they said "I do" and when they stepped outside, Kaeli's red hair burned as if it were a flame. All of their friends wished them good luck, as they left again: only this time, they went together. And as they disappeared out of sight, Reuben bowed his head, turned away and cried...