Legend of Harquin: Part One
One summer’s night when Neopia was young, Venuquin,
Mother Of All Peophins, looked out on her watery kingdom with sad and troubled
eyes, for she had long observed the humans’ persecution of her beloved children.
At the discovery of the Peophin species, thousands upon thousands of the shy,
gentle creatures had been captured, poached, taken away from the wilds of the
oceans to live as pets to the humans on land.
Listening to their desperate, pleading, heartbroken
whines resounding in her head as clear as when she had heard them with her own
ears, the Mother decided that she would stand for it no longer. From the ocean
waves and seaweed she fashioned a new Peophin, with long slender limbs, and
a graceful body like all her kind to swim fast and sleek like an arrow through
the seas, and into her mind she placed the wisdom and the secrets of all things
that live in the oceans. Last of all she added a horn upon the young one’s head
that matched her own, so that if ever she should come up against humans she
would be able to defend herself and escape.
“Go,” she whispered to her creation as the
horned Peophoal, created in the image of her mother, shook herself into new
“Go out into the seas and stay unbound forever,
my daughter, to roam and dance on the rolling waves all your life, away from
human slavery. No human will be able to touch you or own you. I have shaped
you and molded you to live a life free from bondage, so that I may always know
that at least one of my children will be wild and free for eternity.”
Thus it was that Harquin, the Lady of Solitude,
came into being.
- Adapted From Old Maraquan Tale
The sea was a wide expanse of blue, sparkling under the
clear, bright sky. The waves crashed and broke against the shore, spilling clear
water and white creamy foam over the sand, and taking a few grains back for
itself. The sea is like that. It takes something away from every beach it touches,
but leaves something new in its place. It is because of the sea that no beach
ever remains the same. They are always renewed, always changing.
In the sea swam an Acara, his strong paws propelling
him powerfully through the sun-filled water, eyes closed against the salt. Pushing
upward, he surfaced and breathed in the clean, briny air, examining his surroundings.
Far away, on the top of a breakwater, he could see his owner sitting. Swimming
strongly, head above the water, he returned to the shore.
Shaking water vigorously from his thick coat,
the Acara glanced ruefully up at the little hunched-up figure on the huge rock.
He had an inkling he knew what his owner was brooding about.
The teenage boy looked up as his pet padded over
to sit beside him. He gave him a light smile, and placed a gentle hand on his
Acara’s back, but his mind was somewhere else, and his eyes were looking out
to the open sea, off to the thin line of horizon where sky and sea met.
The Acara’s voice cut above the soft voices of
the wind and the gentle wash of the tide. “Dreaming again, Seth?”
The boy turned his dark head back to his pet,
his face full of a hopeful longing. “Do you think I’ll ever see her again, Jake?”
Jake sighed as his owner looked back out to the
horizon, the sea breeze blowing and ruffling his dark hair. Would Seth ever
forget? This chasing after a rainbow had gone on for so long, but the Acara
was too kind-hearted to tell his master so, though he ached for him to give
it up and realize how futile it was. Seven years had not made much of a difference
to the boy’s dream.
Ever since the time Seth had first seen the Peophin,
he had known he wanted her and only her for his pet. It had been when he was
merely a boy of ten, and his father, the First Mate of the ship Island Star,
had been allowed to take his son on the proud galleon to give him a taste of
life on the seas.
It had been evening, the sun sinking beneath
the waters in a great inferno of gold and purple and vermilion, touching the
shifting waves with its fire, illumining them. The boy had been standing by
the rail overlooking the prow with its noble Flotsam figurehead, admiring the
sunset-coloured waves as they frothed and parted before the bows.
Suddenly, far off in the distance, movement caught
the boy’s eye. He looked past the carved wooden horn of the Flotsam just in
time to see a Peophin leap from the waves.
The boy had seen countless Peophins before. But
this particular one made him catch his breath in wonder. For this was unlike
any Peophin-or indeed any pet- he had seen before. This Peophin was blue, an
ordinary enough colour, but the mane that flew out behind her was sea-green,
and most wonderful of all, sprouting from her golden face shield was a long,
Time seemed to stop as the boy, entranced, gazed
out on this magnificent creature, set on fire by the sun’s embers, silhouetted
against the glowing sky. She hung in the air, her slender body curved in a graceful
arc, and then she was gone, lost to sight beneath the waves.
The awed Seth had raced away to find his father,
eventually catching sight of him coming out of his cabin, his burly, stolid
Lupe, Scarp, at heel.
“Dad! Dad!” he cried excitedly, tugging at his
father’s jersey, “I just saw a Peophin, with a horn like a Uni’s!”
“Well!” The mate beamed down at his son. “And
was she blue, with a greenish sort of mane?”
“Yes, yes she was!”
“Well, son, I think you’ve just seen Harquin!”
“Harquin.” The boy tasted the strange, thrilling,
mysterious name. “Who’s that?”
“Lady of Solitude,” Scarp broke in, “created
in the bluest of blue waters by Venuquin, Mother Of All Peophins, as the stories
go. They say she’s the only horned Peophin in Neopia, a very rare sight indeed.”
“And that seeing her his good luck,” smiled Seth’s
father. “It’s good for you, Seth.”
“Well,” the child said, very decisively, “one
day, when I have my own ship, I’ll capture Harquin, and take her to be my pet.”
"That’s ambitious of you,” his father laughed.
“Though the oceans are wide, son, and she’s the most elusive of Peophins, which
is saying something. You won’t have an easy job.”
“I’ll still try, though,” murmured the boy, turning
his head once more to gaze out to sea. “Somehow, I’ll find her.”
After that day, Harquin and the owning of her
seemed to be the only thing Seth could think about. The image of the leaping
Peophin, her golden horn glinting and her whole body alight with the sun’s last
rays, suspended in the air above a glistening sea, invaded his thoughts and
his dreams, and instead of the chatty, cheerful boy he had always been he grew
quieter and more thoughtful, and his eyes would take on a strange, dreamy cast
whenever he looked out at the rolling waves. He would imagine capturing Harquin,
winning her trust and affection. She would be a best friend to him; they would
have a bond of mutual understanding between them. When he called to her she
would come speeding over the waves, whinnying her joy and delight at seeing
him. He might even ride on her back through the white-crested waves in the open
sea, wild and free as the sea wind.
Seth’s father hadn’t worried too much about this.
He assumed Seth would in the end forget all about Harquin once they were back
to land. But as time passed, the boy’s dream showed no signs of leaving. On
the contrary, it was getting stronger. Seth’s parents were frankly worried about
him, and after some discussion, decided that what he needed was a pet to call
his own. Thus it was that Seth’s mother had headed to the Create-A-Pet Centre
and returned with Jake.
Perhaps it was an effect of living by the sea,
but Jake’s fur, several days after he had come back, went from a soft powder
blue to the more greenish shade of the ocean. He was a sensible, down-to-earth
Acara, and as he and Seth spent time together Seth seemed less preoccupied by
daydreams of Harquin and more like his old self. But truly, Jake had never truly
felt he was a real friend to Seth. Sure, they did play together, and joke, but
Jake didn’t feel that he was indispensable to Seth, and something the boy depended
upon, as by rights pets should be to their owners. And when the boy gazed at
the white-crested rollers on the horizon, he would sigh softly and longingly,
and it was as if Jake had ceased to exist. Seth had told the Acara of Harquin
and his plans to make her his own, and by all rights Jake should have been jealous,
but loyal as he was, he stuck by his master, and hoped that someday his plan
might be fulfilled, although part of him wished it wouldn’t, because he knew
that the day Harquin became Seth’s pet was the day he would lose Seth forever.
Far, far away, in a turret of a coral palace deep in the sea, Princess Tirra-Li
gazed sadly out at her silent kingdom through the pearl-framed windows of her
room. The young Flotsam was a slim, elegant creature, with sleek sides such
a deep, intense yellow that she was almost golden, and large, inky blue eyes.
The Princess lowered her horned head and sighed. How had life changed so much?
The joyful cries of the young ones as they flitted about the sand and the seaweed,
the vibrant colours and twisted shapes of coral formations, the happy songs
of the citizens… it all seemed a world away from this.
Now the families of Koi, Peophins and Flotsam
were subdued and solemn, and the coral forests and fields of seaweed that had
once waved so elegantly with the pull and push of the tides were pale and dulled.
Life in the underwater kingdom of Kaoren was definitely not what it used to
The Princess sighed again, more heavily. It wasn’t
even clear how the change had happened. Her father, King Takur-Ath, of course
had blamed the Jetsams.
“Lowlife, thieving scum,” she had heard him snarling
as he swam vigorously up and down the halls of their palace, “it must be some
plot they have to get revenge on us.”
For long ago, before Tirra was born, their pod
of Flotsam had been nomads, a traveling community who went where the waves and
the sea wind took them. Just after Takur had succeeded his own father as leader
of the clan, when Tirra was still a very young podling, their pod had come across
a wonderful stretch of land, full of coral forests and beds of seaweed. This
However, the Peophins and Koi who lived there
lived in fear of a shoal of Jetsam, whose cruel leader Spearblade ruled over
them with an iron fin. There were no Flotsam in Kaoren, and therefore nothing
to keep the Jetsam at bay.
Always ready to help creatures in need, the pod,
led by Takur, defeated Spearblade and his Jetsam horde, and exiled them from
Kaoren. The city was saved, and honoured the Flotsam pod by making them their
new government, with Takur as their King.
For a while it was good, and the city had prospered.
But now it seemed to be failing again, despite all her family’s care. Tirra
wished she knew what the problem was. Being brought up with a none-too-good
opinion of Jetsams, she felt sure they were the ones who were behind it. But
what could they have done? It wasn’t that the seaweed and the corals weren’t
growing any more, as it was that the citizens weren’t ill or anything of the
sort. There was a certain vitality and life that had disappeared. It was as
if the very heart of Kaoren was missing altogether.
“Princess?” Tirra whirled around to see her Koi
handmaiden, Cowrie, standing in the doorway. “Your father told me to get you.
It’s time for lunch.” Tirra gave Cowrie a faint smile, and rose to follow her.
The Flotsam and the Koi drifted down several passageways until they came to
the large, opulent dining room, the walls hung with brilliant tapestries woven
of coloured seaweed and set with shining chinks of pearl that normally sent
rainbows dancing over all from the light, purified by the water, streaming in
through the windows. But now even those looked wan and tired.
King Takur-Ath and Queen Io-Ri, along with Tirra’s
seven elder brothers and sisters were already there waiting for her, seated
around the long table of polished marble. Tirra plopped down at her usual seat
with her sisters, and drummed her fins on the table.
“Tirra, don’t do that dear.” Her mother’s reprimand
came quick and fast, the snapping shut of a clamshell. But Tirra could tell
that her mother was just taking the opportunity to say something that would
break the terrible silence that hovered over the table at every meal now. Normally
they could find so much to say, there was so much talk and laughter… Tirra took
her fins off the table and gripped her seat with them. There was just so much
change for the worse… an unfathomable problem…
“I can’t take it,” she burst out finally. “What’s
wrong with us? What’s wrong with Kaoren? What’s wrong with… with everything?”
“Tirra--” her father began, but Tirra cut him
“I can’t take this anymore, our city is dying!
We’re dying! Something’s wrong, so wrong…”
“Tirra,” King Takur began again angrily, but
the Queen put a gentle white fin on his shoulder.
“She’s right,” Queen Io said softly, sadly. “Kaoren
is dying. Its life and its heart are draining away. Can’t you feel it, Takur?
It’s about time we faced this problem like it should be faced, and find a solution
before our whole city is nothing but an empty shell, a body without a soul.”
King Takur gazed at his mate, and his expression
eased. “We’ll hold a council meeting after dinner,” he told her gently. “We’ll
try and figure out what’s wrong. Kareu,” he said, turning to his eldest son,
“you will attend as well.”
At that moment the butler appeared with the first
of the courses and the family ceased discussion of the matter.
To be continued...